Why is the liver one of the only organs that grows back when most of it is removed?

The best explanation right now seems to come down to two main factors.

1) Liver cells (called hepatocytes) have a relatively high rate of division in response to acute injury, which allows them to replace liver cells that have been damaged or are missing. This is similar to skin cells (fibroblasts and keratinocytes), but unlike, for example, heart cells (cardiomyocytes) which have an exceptionally low rate of division.

2) A special type of liver regeneration helper cells called “hybrid hepatocytes” were recently discovered by a group at UCSD, which appear to facilitate regeneration and reduce the risk of tumor formation (which can be an unfortunate side-effect of attempts at regenerative therapies).

Related reading:
Newly Discovered Cells Regenerate Liver Tissue Without Forming Tumors

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