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.
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.
THE LIVER STORE MANAGER
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.
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.
WHEN DOES THE LIVER LOSE ITS IDENTITY?
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.