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Related to my earlier question, "How does the human liver regrow?", am curious as to why the liver is the only major organ that has this capability?

Why is it that other major organs, such as the heart and lungs etc are not able to regrow in the same fashion?

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Would you be opposed to changing "part" in your title to internal organ? I believe that is what you mean. Also, how would you consider the GI track in your clasification of major? – Atl LED Aug 27 '13 at 20:15
@AtlLED I am not opposed at all to any constructive edits, such as you suggest. I am not 100% sure about the 'GI track'? – user3795 Aug 27 '13 at 20:55
The GI, or gastrointestinal tract, is all the machinery that helps you eat and digest things. Esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines, that sort of thing. – Resonating Aug 28 '13 at 2:55
@JeremyKemball thank you, I just did not know what GI stood for in this context. – user3795 Aug 28 '13 at 6:57
@AtlLED yes, now thatI know what GI stands for, yes, (but isn't the GI track a system?) – user3795 Aug 28 '13 at 6:58
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Maybe it is due to two factors:

1) The liver is one of the few solid non-tubular organs. If a tubular organ is damaged, all the layers that composes it must regenrate. This layers usually have different cell types, wich is always nasty for regneration since some of them may be formed by specilized tissue(For instance, myocites are very difficult to regnerate. If the organ has a muscle layer, such as the esophagus, regeneration will be more difficult). Furthermore, damage in a tubular organ usually involves perforation, wich will disrupt its function even if the injure isn't big.

2) Hepatocytes are pretty undifferenciated cells. They are basically enzimatic sacks with some vacuoles and mitochondrion, but they remain as your typical animal cell. They have a regular nucleus, they don't have any cytoskeletal adaptation and their vacuoles don't compose the most part of theur cytoplasm (in a healthy liver). Cells with so little morphological specialization usually regenerate with no problem. Plus, the liver itself is constantly exposed to chemical damage due to toxins, drugs and other chemical compounds that may be present in the diet. This situation is special and don't aply for any other organs, with the exception of the kidneys (wich in fact is a very complicated tubular organ).

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thank you for the answer! Do you have some references to add? – user3795 Aug 28 '13 at 11:09
1 This is a complete article describing all the embrionic development of the liver and also has some information about liver regeneration. I hope that is enought. – Miguel Ángel Naranjo Ortiz Aug 28 '13 at 11:23
Excellent, thank you for that! – user3795 Aug 28 '13 at 11:32
I'm sure that the structure of the organ is important, but even so, liver growth in the lab requires a scaffold and doesn't regenerate from cells alone. I think the liver cells might regenerate more easily because of their role in detoxifying the blood - they probably die more frequently and need sometimes replacement even in segments of the organ. – shigeta Aug 28 '13 at 17:01

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