Researchers advance understanding of liver regeneration

In collaboration with the Press Association

Researchers have discovered that the number of proteins involved in liver regeneration is much lower than previously thought, bringing them closer to being able to stimulate liver regeneration in patients who have had part of the organ removed due to cirrhosis, hepatitis or cancer. A team from Harvard Medical School, Boston, looked at liver development in embryonic mice and liver regeneration in adult mice who had had part of their liver removed.

They found that that the number and type of proteins involved in both processes was very different. Specifically, certain 'transcription factors' - proteins that turn genes on and off - involved in embryonic liver development were not involved in adult liver regeneration. Study author Dr Seth Karp, who is assistant professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, explained that the human liver is capable of regenerating from as little as 25 per cent of its tissue. Commenting on the "very encouraging" results of the latest research, Dr Karp said: "We think that the liver regrows through a relatively simple process, which could explain its prodigious ability to repair itself." This suggests that liver regeneration may be a much simpler process than in other tissue types, and Dr Karp added that researchers may therefore be closer to stimulating liver regeneration than previously thought. The study is published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.