Regeneration of Liver


One of the most fascinating features of the liver is that it has the capacity to regulate its own growth and mass. The hepatocyte, the main cellular component of the liver, is a metabolically active cell that does not actively replicate in the normal liver. Yet hepatocytes readily proliferate in response to a deficit in tissue mass or cells. Such conditions occur after surgical removal of portions of the liver (partial hepatectomy) or hepatocyte death caused by chemical injury or viruses. The growth response triggered by these conditions is known as liver regeneration.

Keywords: hepatocyte; hepatectomy; proliferation; transplantation; hyperplasia

Figure 1.

General anatomy of the human liver: (a) upper surface; (b) lower surface. On the upper surface of the liver, two main lobes are distinguished, separated on their surface by a solid strand of connective tissue (‘ligament’). The lower surface (b) shows two other smaller lobes (quadrate and caudate lobes) as well as the location of the gallbladder, portal vein and hepatic artery. The tip of the gallbladder as well as the location of the portal vein are also shown in (a).

Figure 2.

Functional segments of the human liver. The human liver can be divided into segments (indicated by Roman numerals), each containing a vascular supply and ducts for bile removal. Surgeons are guided by the functional division of the liver to resect one or more segments of the liver during an operation.

Figure 3.

Cellular, vascular and biliary components of the liver. Hepatocytes, the main cells of the liver, form plates separated by sinusoids that are lined by endothelial cells, Kupffer cells and stellate cells. Blood flows from branches of the portal vein and the hepatic artery, located in the portal spaces (bottom of figure), to the central vein (top of figure). The bile duct system is composed of bile canaliculi, which are the spaces formed between adjacent hepatocytes, and of Hering canals, which are short channels that connect the bile canaliculi with small and large bile ducts located in the portal spaces. The Hering canals are lined by both hepatocytes and ductal cells around a central lumen. Bile flows towards the portal spaces, in the opposite direction of blood flow. Reproduced with permission from Junqueira et al. .



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Further Reading

Albrecht JH and Hansen LK (1999) Cyclin D1 promotes mitogen‐independent cell cycle progression in hepatocytes. Cell Growth and Differentiation 10: 397–404.

Columbano A and Shinozuka H (1996) Liver regeneration versus direct hyperplasia. FASEB Journal 10: 1118–1128.

Grisham JW (1962) A morphologic study of deoxyribonucleic acid synthesis and cell proliferation in regenerating rat liver; autoradiography with thymidine 2H. Cancer Research 22: 842–849.

Wright N and Alison M (1984) The liver. In: Wright N and Alison M (eds) The Biology of Epithelial Cell Populations. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

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Fausto, Nelson(Mar 2002) Regeneration of Liver. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001108]