Table of Contents
Historically health professionals have viewed the appendix as a vestigial structure with no functional purpose. However, recent research identifies clusters of GUT-ASSOCIATED LYMPHOID TISSUE (GALT), fragments of lymphoid tissue, within the lining of the appendix. Though researchers do not yet understand the role of GALT, they know it belongs to the IMMUNE SYSTEM and has functions related to the IMMUNE RESPONSE.
It appears that the immune functions of the appendix, like those of the THYMUS, are most active early in life. Researchers are studying the relationship between the appendix and INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE (IBD) as well as the role of GALT HYPERPLASIA (enlargement of the lymphoid tissue) in APPENDICITIS. Because of its location and narrow structure, the appendix is vulnerable to circumstances that cause it to become inflamed or infected. Appendicitis is the most common health condition involving the appendix.
For further discussion of the appendix within the context of gastrointestinal structure and function, please see the overview section “The Gastrointestinal System.”