Exactly 150 years after Charles Darwin proposed his theory of human evolution, biologists are finding a kink in his hypothesis. The appendix, a tiny sack that hangs between our small and large intestines, may not be completely useless, or vestigial, after all. In a study published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, immunologists suggest it serves as a vital safe-house for good bacteria that are needed to repopulate the gut after a nasty bout of diarrhoea. Past research found the tiny dead-end sack, can also help make, direct and train white blood cells. The recent study also says the appendix ‘has been maintained in mammalian evolution for at least 80 million years’—much longer than Darwin estimated. The question now is whether appendicitis can be prevented in human beings. It’s possible if our immune systems can be challenged today in the same manner they were in the Stone Age, says immunologist William Parker, who was part of the research team.
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