The liver is an organ with multiple different functions required for survival. After a meal, most nutrients first pass the liver before arriving at the other organs. The liver is involved in nutrient and drug metabolism, as well as storage and excretion of diverse substances (such as of toxins and drugs).
Various factors, such as certain drugs, poisons (e.g. ethanol), viruses, and obesity challenge and damage the liver. In the worst case, a liver damage results in chronic liver disease and cirrhosis that negatively affects the entire organism. Due to its multiple functions during metabolism, numerous interactions exist between the liver and other organs (e.g. pancreatic islets, brain, kidney, and heart). We investigate the molecular signals underlying the crosstalk between liver and heart, which significantly contributes to the survival prospects of individuals encountering a severe myocardial infarction.
The liver is the only internal organ that can completely regenerate, so long as it is only reduced in size and otherwise healthy. If more than half of a healthy liver is removed, the liver remnant grows to the original liver size within a couple of days to a few weeks.
We want to discover the molecular signals enabling this remarkable capability of the liver to fully regenerate. Our investigation is conducted in collaboration with the Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Infection and is part of the Collaborative Research Consortium 974 “Communication and System Relevance in Liver Damage and Regeneration.”
Häussinger D. Liver regeneration. De Gruyter Textbook 2011
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Vital Statistics Reports, 65(2)