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Increased blood flow renews the liver
It is indispensable for the metabolism and for the detoxification of our body, as well as for our immune system. The liver is undoubtedly one of the most important human organs. In addition to the vital functions, their ability to regenerate is also unique. The liver is the only organ that can restore itself in a few weeks if more than half of it has been removed. A German team of researchers has now found out how this remarkable regeneration can be triggered.
The researchers led by Professor Eckhard Lammert from the German Diabetes Center (DDZ) have now deciphered the triggers with which the liver receives its signals for growth so that its regenerative properties begin. This could be crucial in the treatment of fatty liver disease. The study results were recently published in the renowned journal "nature".
Our liver suffers silently and secretly
Many people suffer from fatty liver, which often remains undetected for a long time. Whether due to alcoholism, obesity or diabetes - our liver suffers in silence with dramatic consequences. If left untreated, fatty liver can cause serious complications ranging from high blood pressure, cirrhosis and liver cancer to a heart attack and stroke.
This is how the liver receives the signal for regeneration
"In our study on the liver and its blood vessels, we identified an important trigger for organ growth," reports Professor Dr. Eckhard Lammert, director of the Institute for Beta Cell Biology at the DDZ, in a press release on the study results. His team found that, in particular, increased blood flow and the mechanical expansion of the blood vessels in the liver start the growth process.
Growth-promoting signals start the self-healing process
"For the first time, we were able to show that blood flow and the dilation of blood vessels (the so-called vasodilation) release growth-promoting signals," explains the professor. His colleague Prof. Michael Roden adds that these findings could be of great importance for the understanding and therapy of fatty liver diseases in obesity and diabetes.
The study results in detail
The researchers were able to prove that increased blood flow through the liver is accompanied by more active growth signals. According to the researchers, one of these signals is the protein HGF (hepatocyte growth factor). Among other things, this protein plays an important role in embryonic development, cell regeneration and wound healing. HGF also initiates liver growth. After the liver regains its normal size and new blood vessels form, the normal amount of blood flows through the liver again and the regeneration signals stop.
How exactly is the HGF protein released and activated?
As the DDZ researchers report, the inner wall layer (endothelial cells) of the blood vessels in the liver recognizes the increased blood flow using so-called integrins. These proteins sit on the surface of the endothelial cells. If there is a mechanical stimulus from the increased blood flow, the integrins activate the receptor Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-3 (VEGFR3) in the endothelial cells. VEGFR3 in turn ensures that the above-mentioned proteins of the HGF type are released and activated. These then initiate the regeneration process of the liver. (vb)