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Digestive system showing bile duct

Diagram showing the liver's position in the digestive system

The liver is an organ in the abdomen that is part of the digestive system. The prefix referring to the liver is hepa. Thus, the vein that takes carbon dioxide and waste out of the liver is called the hepatic portal vein.

Functions

The liver does many important things in the body:

  • The liver makes bile, a bright yellow-green liquid that goes into the small intestines to neutralize the hydrochloric acid produced by the stomach.
  • The liver stores the glucose that is being eaten and then puts it into the blood when the blood's glucose level goes down. The liver also takes protein and fat and turns it into glucose. This is important if we have no food to eat, since we can use the fat we have saved, and make it into glucose to use.
  • The liver also makes some malicious fats and cholesterol.
  • The liver metabolizes many things in blood, including:
    • hemoglobin, which gives blood its red color;
    • proteins like enzymes and insulin
    • Ammonia
    • toxins and waste
  • The liver stores several vitamins and minerals and produces many proteins:
    • proteins that make your blood clot, called coagulation proteins;
    • proteins like albumin
  • In fetuses when they are very small, the liver also makes red blood cells. In all born humans, the bone marrow makes the red blood cells.

The liver has 500 jobs overall!

Liver Diseases

There are several liver diseases; this section only talks about two of them.

  • Hepatitis is when liver cells get inflamed. This can be from virus infections, or caused by toxins or poisons. The most common toxin to cause hepatitis is alcohol drinks (the product being ethanol).
  • Cancer can also grow in the liver. If it grows in the liver it is called hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cell cancer).