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Structure and function of liver

Updated: Mar 28, 2021

The liver is the largest solid organ and the largest gland in the human body. It is the largest internal organ (the largest external organ being the skin). It is reddish-brown in colour, of rubbery texture and weighs about 1.4 to 1.6 kilograms. It is located in the right upper part of the abdomen, just below the diaphragm. It is the only organ which can regenerate. It can regenerate completely, as long as a minimum of 25 percent of the tissue remains. It can completely regrow to it’s previous size and ability without the loss of any function during the growth process. The gallbladder, a small pouch sits just under the liver, stores bile produced by the liver which is afterwards moved to the small intestine to complete digestion. The liver is divided into two unequal lobes; right lobe and left lobe, which are separated by falciform ligament. The right lobe is much larger then the left lobe. Unlike most organs, the liver has two major sources of blood supply. The portal vein brings in nutrient-rich blood from the digestive system and hepatic artery carries oxygenated blood from the heart. Blood is removed from the liver through three hepatic veins. The working cells of liver are known as hepatocytes.It carries out more than 500 functions in the human body, some of which are as follows:

  1. Production of bile, which helps in the breakdown of fats in small intestine during digestion.

  2. Conversion of excess glucose into glycogen for storage, which can be later converted back to glucose for energy, when required.

  3. Production of cholesterol and triglycerides.

  4. Conversion of poisonous ammonia to urea, which is then released into the blood and is excreted by kidneys in urine.

  5. Clearing the blood of drugs and other poisonous substances.

  6. The liver stores fat-soluble vitamins Vitamin A, D, E, K and Vitamin B12 and keeps them stored, even some of them for several years.

  7. Albumin is the most important protein of the blood serum and is produced in the liver.

  8. Filters the blood and removes alcohol and other drugs outside the body.

  9. The liver contains high number of cells called Kupffer cells, which destroy any disease-causing agents that might enter the liver through the gut.

  10. It stores vitamins and minerals such as copper and iron, releasing them if the body needs them.

  11. It is responsible for production of clotting factors like fibrinogen and prothrombin.

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