Can the liver re-grow?

14 September 2008

Question

Is it true that you can re-grow the liver after chopping a bit off? Could that be the answer for the thousands of people that are waiting? We could turn the population into liver donors.

Answer

Kat - It's true that the liver does grow back. It does this amazing regenerative potential. You can pretty much cut away half of someone's liver and it will grow back again. It does sound like a fantastic idea for transplant patients but sadly you will still have the problem of tissue rejection. You have to very, very carefully match it. Some people do offer to act as living donors. You can donate kidneys, you can donate livers to people you're very closely related to. You're likely to have a very similar tissue type but obviously trying to remove part of someone's liver is pretty major surgery and it's not something that you'd want to go into lightly. Really the problem of the thousands of people waiting for transplants is really to get more people to sign up for the organ donor register.

Chris - I think another problem with the liver is that if you do take away a big chunk of the liver, although the cells might have the capacity to replace lost cells and make up the cell numbers there won't be the architecture, the structure there for the cells to hang around or to be strung from in order to make a new liver. Although you could make the cells back you couldn't make the same shape and structure. It would be very difficult for it to repair itself like that so I think there's more to it than just -

Kat - It will grow back. The liver will actually grow back a couple of weeks after removing it. It's really phenomenal. In the case of cancer patients you can remove 50-60% of someone's liver and it will grow back.

Comments

Chemotherapy is just going to put her into a lot of suffering and pain, making her last months miserable. If you can get the cancer removed, do it and do it quick

My daughter was just diagnosed with stage four liver cancer. The Dr doesn't think she should get surgery but what I hear is that its better to get the cancer removed then do chemotherapy or other treatments. What do you think?

Looking to donate liver

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