The liver is the human body’s chemical laboratory. This vital organ cleanses toxins from blood and performs important functions for digestion and metabolism. The liver is located in the upper abdomen, to the right of the stomach. It is protected by the ribs, and sits below the lungs and the diaphragm.
It can weigh between one-and-a-half to three kilos, and is brown and egg-shaped. The liver is a soft organ and requires a net of connective tissue to support it, which is why it appears to be divided into four sections. A healthy liver is the only organ of the human body capable of regenerating. Up to 75% of the liver can be surgically removed. The remaining cells act like stem cells, blank cells capable of developing into different types of tissue.
The liver is a gland, an organ that produces useful substances for the organism. It is the largest gland in the body.
The principle substance produced by the liver is called bile, a yellow-green liquid that aids digestion and the absorption of fats and vitamins. But bile production is only one of the liver’s many functions.
The liver is connected to the intestine via the portal vein. The portal vein replenishes it with blood loaded with nutrients from digestion. The liver filters the blood, retaining only nutrients such as proteins, sugars, vitamins and fats, then transforming them into substances that the body can absorb.It also purifies the blood, eliminating toxic substances and transforming them into less dangerous ones that are then expelled through urine and feces. Half a liter of blood circulates constantly within the liver.
The portal vein guarantees 75% of the liver’s necessary blood inflow. The other 25% comes from the heart, through the hepatic artery, which provides clean, oxygenated blood. All blood flowing out of the liver travels directly to the heart via the inferior vena cava. The capability of the liver to regenerate has inspired numerous beliefs and myths.
The most famous is the myth of Prometheus. Zeus chained Prometheus to a mountain rock for having dared to challenge him. Every day an eagle flew down and devoured Prometheus’s liver, and every night the organ would grow back. The following day, Prometheus would have to endure the torture all over again.