According to Greek mythology, as a punishment for giving fire to humans, Prometheus is condemned by the gods to be chained to a rock while an eagle devours his liver during the day, only for it to regenerate at night. It sounds like a story full of fantasy, but it has some truth to it. Prometheus does not die from his liver injuries. Could it be that… the liver regenerates?
In ancient times, the Greeks attributed similar importance to the liver as they did to the heart, considering it to be the source of life because they believed it was where the blood was produced. Some cultures used the livers of animals for divination rituals.
Higgins and Anderson in 1931 were the first to confirm that the removal of 75% of the liver would completely regenerate in just one week in rodents, without the need for stem cells. It is the only visceral organ with this characteristic, which makes it so special, as it can go from 25% of its cells to its full size in just a few weeks. But…
Why does it regenerate?
The liver could be compared to a small laboratory where, among other functions, it receives blood from the entire gastrointestinal tract and converts potentially harmful substances into less aggressive ones, due to their toxicity to the body.
Here are some examples:
Ethanol is metabolized thanks to the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase present in the liver.
Paracetamol combines with glucuronic acid and is eliminated through urine.
It transforms ammonia into urea, which is less toxic and can be more easily eliminated through urine.
Bilirubin is a toxic substance that comes from the degradation of hemoglobin. It is eliminated through bile after conjugating with glucuronic acid.
Neutralization of numerous toxins.
We quickly realize that the liver is exposed to numerous aggressions. This is why our body has wisely endowed it with the ability to regenerate itself in response to cellular damage.
This property has been harnessed in the field of medicine for some time now, where extensive liver resections and transplants are performed, making the most of this ability to return to its normal size.
How does it regenerate?
It has recently been discovered that the capacity for liver regeneration comes from the presence of high amounts of a protein called telomerase.
During each cell division, telomeres located at the ends of chromosomes shorten, and as a result, cells lose their ability to regenerate, leading to aging and genetic mutations as telomeres shorten further.
Telomerases are responsible for preventing this shortening, but unfortunately, they are not very abundant in tissues, except in stem cells and in the liver.
In summary, the liver employs a unique and surprising mechanism to maintain its integrity while functioning as a biological filter.
This is achieved through cellular regeneration by the action of telomerases, which effectively maintain cell division, preventing genetic errors or mutations and aging.
After reading this article, another question arises.
Could it be that Prometheus had excessively high telomerase concentrations, and that’s what his immortality was based on?
Read our next article: The Exorcism of Tanacu. Science vs Religion. You’ll surely be interested.