Get to know your Interstitium

Interstitium means A Space Between Things

Maybe you heard about this: last March, scientists announced the discovery of a new organ, christening it the interstitium. This news even made the mainstream press.

Fascia or Interstitium?

What these scientists were talking about, of course, is fascia. It’s just that they came upon it unexpectedly and by a different route than did scientists affiliated with the Fascia Research Society.

 I attended at webinar with representatives from both groups, and the best my non-scientifically inclined mind could make of it was this:  the new group views the new organ as ubiquitous, fluid-filled space that is supported by a lattice of protein fibers, whereas the Fascia Research group regards this tissue as fibrous proteins that are associated with a fluid matrix. Apples and apples, it seems to me, though I know there are subtleties I’m missing. In both views, the body is understood as an ecosystem rather than a mechanism.  And however the bionetwork is described, this is progress in our understanding of our bodies.

Wellcome Library, London

Wellcome Library, London

Fascia means “bandage”

With their mechanical interpretation of the body, ancient anatomists dubbed the bands and sheets of tissue they found in cadavers fascia, meaning “band” or “bandage.”  They understood what they were looking at only as a container of other tissues.  This belief was maintained until the late twentieth century.

But fascia is so much more than a container that needs to be “blasted” into putty (see FasciaBlaster—I won’t dignify this with a link!)  Fascia, we now know, is sentient.  It is replete with sensory nerve endings, more by far than muscles have.  And those nerve endings are the source of our interior bodily sensations, as well as the sensations of our body in space, our proprioception.  Our fascia lets us know that we have a body!  So much more than a bandage, I think it’s high time to give it a new name.

The word interstitium means “a space that intervenes between things.”  It’s a lovely, ancient word, but also a modern term that is broad enough to include the intricate properties of this tissue about which we still have so much to learn.

© 2018 Mary Bond