The liver has the greatest regenerative capacity of any organ in the body, making it possible for surgeons to treat cancerous and noncancerous diseases with extensive surgical approaches. However, underlying chronic liver diseases, like cirrhosis or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, are known to inhibit the liver's ability to regenerate after surgery. Without regeneration, the liver cannot function, and patients can develop postoperative liver failure — often a lethal complication.
In a recent paper published in JHEP Reports, Mayo Clinic researchers and collaborators identified that many genes rapidly change their expression during in-human liver regeneration. While most of these genes were associated with inflammation, they found patients with dysfunctional liver regeneration experience an aggravated, overwhelming inflammatory response within the liver. A certain level of inflammation is needed to spur effective liver regeneration. However, the liver fails to regenerate when there is too much of an inflammatory response.
"We were able to demonstrate that blood cells associated with inflammation, called neutrophils, play a critical role in human liver regeneration after liver resection," says Patrick Starlinger, M.D., Ph.D., a hepatobiliary and pancreas surgeon at Mayo Clinic and first author of the paper. "Until now, data from animal models have indicated that a lack of these cells is critical in liver regeneration, while an overwhelming response seems to be an issue in humans."
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