Can the liver re-grow?
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.
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.