Cell-to-Cell Contacts Control Liver Regeneration

From the time of Aristotle, it has been known that the human liver has the greatest regenerative capacity of any organ in the body, being able to regrow even from a 70% amputation, which has enabled live-donor transplants. Although the liver regenerates fully upon injury, the mechanisms that regulate how to activate or stop the process and when regeneration is terminated, are still unknown.  Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) in Dresden (Germany), at the Gurdon Institute (Cambridge, UK) and at the University of Cambridge (Biochemistry Department) have now found that a regulatory cell type--mesenchymal cell--can activate or stop liver regeneration. The mesenchymal cells do so by the number of contacts they establish with the regenerating cells (epithelial cells). This study suggests that mistakes in the regeneration process, which can give rise to cancer or chronic liver diseases, are caused by the wrong number of contacts between both populations. The work is described in a paper published online in Cell Stem Cell on August 2, 2021. The open-access article is titled “Dynamic Cell Contacts Between Periportal Mesenchyme and Ductal Epithelium Act As a Rheostat for Liver Cell Proliferation.”
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