This is what happens to us when the liver loses its identity

Since we studied the natural sciences in school, we all understand that inside our body there are a series of organs that perform a range of very specific functions. What is the first example that comes to mind? Perhaps the heart, to pump blood, or the lungs, responsible for breathing. But did a reader first think of the liver? Surely not, even if it is a key organ for our survival.

The liver is a central regulator of the body’s metabolism. Hormones and clotting factors are made there, energy is stored, bile salts are produced to digest fats, cholesterol and blood glucose levels are regulated, vitamins and minerals are stored, and the blood is cleansed. toxins, including drugs, drugs or other harmful substances. substances.


Our body is made up of about 30 billion cells, which are grouped in an organized manner into tissues and then into organs. The cells that make up each organ are specialized to perform a series of specific tasks.

To make matters worse, in every organ there are different types of cells with different functions but a common purpose. His thing is teamwork.

So, for example, in the brain we find mainly neurons and astrocytes, in the heart – cardiomyocytes, in the skin – keratinocytes and melanocytes, and in the liver we find hepatocytes and cholangiocytes.

Although all the cells in our body contain an exact copy of the same genes, some cells use certain genes and others use others.

To understand this better, consider genetic material as a storehouse of DIY tools and genes as each of these tools. The various construction unions carry a toolbox with the equipment they need to carry out their function. Moreover, these tools identify them. This way, a plumber’s toolbox will be different from a carpenter’s, which in turn will be different from an electrician’s.

In the organism, among all the genes (the same common store), each cell specializes with the help of specific genes (its toolbox), which differentiate it from the others. What in professional life is called professional specialization, in biology is called cellular differentiation.


For the most part, genes are used to make the proteins that cells use to perform their functions. Moreover, some of these proteins decide which genes pass and which do not.

In the liver, for example, there is a protein that acts in this way which is called HNF4α. It depends on the genes involved in the different functions performed by the liver that are used, thus giving the identity to hepatocytes.

It is a hierarchical regulation and, following the previous comparison, HNF4α would be the warehouse manager, the person who distributes the tools according to the tasks to be carried out.


The liver can be damaged for different reasons. Severely due to intoxication with drugs, alcohol or toxins. Chronically when one of these aggressions at more moderate doses persists over time, or when excess fat accumulates or infections with hepatitis B and C viruses occur, for example.
In these situations, many hepatocytes die and the rest lose the ability to perform their functions because they have lost their identity, they dedifferentiate. This is when patients begin to show symptoms of the disease.

For us to understand, if the boss suddenly gets sick and does not come to work, that is, the amount of SLU7 decreases, the rest of the workers lose their place and do not know what to do.

In short, the function and identity of our cells depends on the correct use of the information contained in our genes. In certain circumstances, this identity is lost and, as a result, we become ill.

As researchers, we intend to identify faulty genes or proteins so that when this happens, we can restore the liver to its lost identity as soon as possible.

Leave a Comment