The appendix is probably the most famous vestigial organ, if for no other reason than inevitably the thing gets infected and out it has to come. But apparently, it might not be as vestigial as we thought.
Bill Parker, a professor of surgery at the Duke School of Medicine, just had an idea one day: the appendix might be a reserve for beneficial gut bacteria. After all, humanity, throughout its history, tends to get nasty gut problems that wipe out those useful buggers, so how do we get them back?
The problem was, and Parker acknowledged this, that there’s no ethical way to test this. Either you’re giving people cholera, or trying to track the medical histories of patients in Third World countries instead of helping them.
But somebody figured out a way, and it turns out, Parker might actually be right. It was shown that people with an appendix were less likely to fall prone to a fatal gut infection in hospitals.
Way more experiments need to be conducted, of course, but in the future, they might actually be saving your appendix instead of cutting it out.
[ appended via Scientific American ]