The regenerative organ
Did you know that there is one organ that can grow back to its normal size when a part is taken off? It is the largest organ inside the body - The liver.
The liver is an organ many do not know much about. It serves an important function in the body and without it, one may die. Hence, it is substantial to learn about it in order to protect it.
The liver is the largest internal organ in the body. It is soft, pinkish-brown, and triangular in shape. Can you imagine?
Its weight is similar to that of a large-size pineapple about 1.2 - 1.6kg. The liver, like humans have close neighbors, is positioned at the upper right portion of the abdomen and is protected by the lower ribs. Its direct neighbor are the stomach which is located on the bottom-left side and the gall bladder which is immediately below it. What work does the liver perform?
The liver is universally known to manufacture bile which aids the digestion process by breaking down the fats obtained from food. It also produces important blood proteins like fibrinogen which is responsible for blood clotting when one gets injured. In the foetus(embryo), the liver is responsible for the formation of red blood cells, which is later taken over by the bone marrow. Aside from production, it is involved in various metabolism, storage, and detoxification.
The blood transports and distributes digested foods to the cells of the body to be assimilated (used by the body). In excess of the body's needs, all the remaining digested foods are transported to the liver by various blood capillaries. The liver converts glucose to glycogen for storage and later releases it as glucose whenever the body needs it due to activities such as fasting, etc. However, excess glucose is also converted into fat and stored in the fat depot (areas under the skin, kidneys and in the abdomen). So, if we do not want to gain more weight; then, we have to eat in moderation.
Excess amino acids(basic units of protein) are de-aminated, thus, broken down into urea and glucose by the liver. The urea is sent to the kidneys to be removed from the body, and glucose is converted into glycogen for storage in the liver. It also stores iron and some vitamins (A, D and B-12). In all, the liver stores one fourth of the total blood of the body.
The liver also breaks down toxins from the blood. We ingest toxins almost every day from the food we eat, and the liver works 24/7. It breaks down drugs, alcohol and so on. Because of the workload on the liver, it is important not to overwork it by ingesting too much alcohol. Pregnant women must abstain from alcohol as it may cause them to have babies with serious mental defects.
Due to so many metabolic processes occurring in it, it keeps the body warm. The liver is undoubtedly an important organ and due to its many functions, it is factual for it to have the bragging right as the largest internal organ.
Diseases and disorders of the liver
Just like any other organ, it can become diseased or worn-out if mismanaged. The first and common liver diseases are:
- Cirrhosis: this is caused by excessive intake of alcohol over a long period of time which adversely affects the normal functions of the liver. It can also happen when a person gets hepatitis. This condition may lead to death.
- Non- alcoholic liver disease such as fatty liver: Many a time, most people shun away from alcohol but heavily ingest soft drinks and the likes with the perception that,it's only alcohol that can destroy the liver. This is far from the truth. As we discussed earlier, the liver converts excess sugars go fats and stores it. Hence, too much sugar means bountiful storage of fat. Having a fatty liver predisposes you into getting liver cancer or cirrhosis and sometimes, liver failure. Hence, diabetic, obese and people with high blood pressure are at risk of getting this condition.
- Jaundice: it is marked by the yellowing of the eyes and skin. It is usually a result of a liver disease.
- Infectious hepatitis: it is simply the inflammation of the liver. It is caused by transfusion of blood of an infectious person to an unaffected person or taking in food and water infected with the virus.
- Liver cancer: the main cause is not known, but risk factors include liver cirrhosis, smoking, alcoholism, chronic hepatitis, a family history of liver cancer, exposure to aflatoxins, diabetes and non alcoholic liver disease.
The good thing about the liver is that, it is the only organ that can grow back to its normal size when a piece of it is inserted into a person via surgery. The liver secretes a hormone called IGF-1 which promotes cell growth. So do not be alarmed.
The liver is indeed an important and special organ. The liver is only one unlike paired organs such as the kidney. Thus, we ought to protect it to increase our life span.
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