Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Surface Area of the Digestive Tract "only" as Large as a Studio Apartment

23.04.2014

The internal surface area of the gastro-intestinal tract has long been considered to be between 180 and 300 square meters. Scientists at the Sahlgrenska Academy have used refined microscopic techniques that indicate a much smaller area.

“Actually, the inner surface of the gastro-intestinal tract is only as large as a normal studio apartment,” says scientist Lars Fändriks.

The digestive tract, which passes from the mouth through the esophagus and onwards through the intestines, has a length of about 5 meters in a normal adult, and is built up with many folds and protrusions.

Previous calculations, which are reproduced in reference works and textbooks, state that the area of the inner surface of the digestive tract is between 180 and 300 square meters – as large as, or even larger than, a tennis court.

Wrong figures
A new study from the Sahlgrenska Academy, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroentorology, shows that these figures are wrong.

Scientists Lars Fändriks and Herbert Helander have used quantitative microscopic techniques to determine that the surface area of the gastro-intestinal tract in healthy adults is “only” between 30 and 40 square meters.

By far the greatest part of this is the small intestine. The area of the large intestine is approximately 2 square meters, while the mouth, esophagus and stomach amount to less than 1 square meter.

Half of a badminton court
Lars Fändriks finds it surprising that the area of the gastro-intestinal tract is not that of a tennis court, rather half of a badminton court.

“It may appear to be simply a curious fact, but the dimensions of the inner surface of the gastro-intestinal tract are important for the uptake of nutrients and drugs, and the new information will help us understand how the mucous membrane protects the body from harmful factors in the intestinal contents,” he says.

Misleading measurements
The Gothenburg scientists explain how the previously erroneous results were arrived at:

“The gastro-intestinal tract is a dynamic system that is difficult to access in the abdominal cavity, and this makes it difficult to measure. Since the past measurements were carried out either during post mortems or during abdominal surgery, when the tissue is relaxed, it is easy to obtain misleading measurements,” says Herbert Helander.

Radiological investigations
The two scientists from Gothenburg have used data from radiological investigations, supplemented with studies of the microscopical structure of the gastro-intestinal tract, where they have used endoscopes to obtain samples of the mucous membrane of the intestines.

The scientists emphasize that the new dimensions are valid for a healthy “average” adult: the length and surface area of the digestive tract differs from person to person. In addition, the measurement for an individual is probably affected by diet and lifestyle.

“From an anatomical point of view, 30-40 square meters is more than enough for the uptake of nutrients. Furthermore, the smaller area is actually quite logical, since it means that the risk of effects from the intestinal contents is lower,” says Herbert Helander.

The article Surface area of the digestive tract – revisited was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Gastroenterology on 2 April.

Link to the article: http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/00365521.2014.898326

FACTS ABOUT THE DIGESTIVE TRACT
The principle function of the digestive tract is the digestion of food and the absorption of nutrients. The tract is also an important “detection point” for the body’s immune system. Both of these functions require a large surface area. On the other hand, the intestinal contents contain toxins that have accompanied the food, as well as bacteria, which may cause disease. The mucous membrane of the intestines then functions as a barrier to these harmful factors – and in this case it is an advantage to have a small surface area.

Contact:
Herbert Helander, Professor emeritus at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg
Tel.: +46 300 74421
Mobile: +46 705 505139
herberthelander@hotmail.com

Lars Fändriks, Professor at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg
Tel.: +46 31 342 4123
Mobile: +46 70 592 2603
lars.fandriks@gastro.gu.se

Weitere Informationen:

http://sahlgrenska.gu.se/english/news_and_events/news/News_Detail//the-surface-a...

Krister Svahn | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

Further reports about: Academy Digestive Gastroenterology Studio gastro-intestinal tract measurements mouth

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht The genes are not to blame
20.07.2018 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Targeting headaches and tumors with nano-submarines
20.07.2018 | Universitätsmedizin der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>