Liver regenerates to its original size

The liver has a remarkable regeneration capacity. After a loss of liver mass, for instance due to surgical removal of parts of the liver (partial hepatectomy), the liver grows back to its original size. Liver size regeneration is mainly accomplished by hepatocyte proliferation until the original hepatocyte number is approximately reached.

  • Yet, how does a single liver cell know when the overall organ has attained the correct size? In this context, two hypotheses about liver size regulation are discussed in the scientific community.
  • The first one is the hemodynamics hypothesis. It states that partial hepatectomy leads to an increased blood pressure and shear stress in the remnant liver’s portal veins which initiates cell proliferation. When the original size is reached, the portal blood pressure as well as the shear stress decrease and the hepatocyte proliferation ceases.
  • The second hypothesis is the metabolic load hypothesis. It asserts that the amount of metabolites transported by the portal blood increases after partial hepatectomy. Then the hepatocytes cannot process all metabolites and need to temporarily store or buffer parts of them. If the buffer is almost filled, hepatocyte proliferation is triggered until there is again enough liver tissue to comply with the metabolic functions.
  • Scientists of the Virtual Liver Network utilize mathematical modeling to find out which of the two hypotheses better explains the experimental observations.
  • Author of text: Anja Voss-Böhme

  • Authors of Figure: Nadine Hohmann and Anja Voss-Böhme

  • Further Reading:
    How Does a Single Cell Know When the Liver Has Reached Its Correct Size?
  • Link to scientific data: 70% Partial Hepatectomy in the rat & Portal Vein Ligation


  • Mathematical model for liver size regulation
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