Mouse Livers Grow And Shrink!

May 31, 2017 By Nupur V, Young Editor
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Our body consists of several organs that have different functions, which help keep us alive and healthy.

Your heart pumps blood to the rest of the body, your stomach digests the food you eat, and your brain interprets the information you provide it with, using your sensory organs- eyes, ears, nose, skin, and tongue.

But do you know what the liver does and why it is one of the most important organs in our bodies?

The Role Of The Liver

The liver is present on the right side of your belly, and weighs about three pounds. Its function is to filter the blood that comes from the digestive tract, and removing all the toxic chemicals it may contain. The liver also produces bile from the bile duct, which helps with the absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins.

Did you know that other than being an extremely important organ that plays a major role in the digestion process, the liver is also changes by day and night! Researchers from Switzerland studied the liver cells of mice, and noticed that they would grow when the mice were active- at night, and would shrink when they were asleep or inactive.

But why does the liver do this? To save energy. The liver cells swelled up when the mice were active because the liver needed to work faster and harder. It was also found that liver cells respond to circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is the natural internal clock in a living being’s body, which functions based on when it eats and sleeps. Most mice livers would only grow at night because that is when the mouse begins to eat!

Why Is This Important?

Does the human liver do this too? There is proof that human livers grow and shrink back just like mice livers. However, there aren’t many sources. The only source we have is a 1986 study, in which the size of people’s livers were measured for six hours, and a size change of 20% observed. However, the size of the human liver at night when we are inactive, has not been measured.

Humans are naturally diurnal, which means we are active during the day, and sleep at night. This is a major part of our circadian rhythm. If we change our sleeping patterns, it could affect the functioning of our organs. With the liver for example, if our sleeping patterns change, it is likely that we will eat foods at different times as well. The liver will not be used to being active around this new time, and if you keep changing these timings, your liver could get damaged.

Changing the natural cycles can lead to problems like obesity, diabetes, depression, and certain types of cancer. Now that we know the effects of circadian rhythm, we need to take care of our livers  - to make sure it grows and shrinks at the right time!

Wonder what role livers play in the human body? Check out this video below.