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Valstar et al., Radiotherapy and Oncology (2020) 2020.09.034

You may have a new organ lurking in the middle of your head

You may think we’ve learned everything there is to know about human spit, but it turns out the well has not gone dry. Scientists may have identified a previously undiscovered pair of salivary glands near the center of our heads, The New York Times reports. According to standard anatomy textbooks, the body has just three major sets of salivary glands: one under the tongue, another below the jaw, and the third near the ears. This potential fourth pair sits near where the nasal cavity meets the throat. Researchers noticed these unfamiliar structures while looking through the computerized tomography scans of 100 patients diagnosed with prostate or urethral gland cancer. They then examined tissues from two cadavers, and found that the structures were similar to salivary glands located underneath the tongue, they reported last month in Radiotherapy and Oncology. More research is needed to conclude whether these mysterious structures are newly discovered organs, or one of the hundreds of minor salivary glands in the mouth and throat. If the finding is confirmed, it would be the first discovery of salivary glands in about 300 years.

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