Medical researchers have made a surprise anatomical discovery, finding what looks to be a mysterious set of salivary glands hidden inside the human head – which somehow have been missed by scientists for centuries up until now.
In this case, however, it showed up something else entirely, nestled in the rear of the
The tubarial glands structure, indicated by blue arrows, alongside other major salivary glands in orange.
"People have three sets of large salivary glands, but not there,"
"As far as we knew, the only salivary or mucous glands in the nasopharynx are microscopically small, and up to 1,000 are evenly spread out throughout the mucosa. So, imagine our surprise when we found these."
There are approximately 1,000 minor salivary glands situated throughout the oral cavity and the aerodigestive tract, but these are generally too small to be seen without a microscope.
The discovery made by Vogel's team is much larger, showing what appears to be a previously overlooked pair of glands – ostensibly the fourth set of major salivary glands – located behind the nose and above the palate, close to the center of the human head.
"The two new areas that lit up turned out to have other characteristics of salivary glands as well,"
"We call them tubarial glands, referring to their anatomical location [above the
These tubarial glands were seen to exist in the PSMA PET/CT scans of all the 100 patients examined in the study. Physical investigations of two cadavers – one male and one female – also showed the mysterious bilateral structure, revealing macroscopically visible draining duct openings towards the nasopharyngeal wall.
"To our knowledge, this structure did not fit prior anatomical descriptions," the researchers explain