The silent organ

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The silent organ


According to a dissertation in Science magazine, Volume 276, the mythical story about Prometheus is an indication that ancient Greeks knew that the liver can regenerate itself if surgically removed or injured.

The liver is one of a few internal human organs capable of natural regeneration of lost tissue; as little as 15 percent of a liver can regenerate into a whole liver in two or three months. Even if the liver is impaired by excessive drinking or hepatitis, it can be easily restored after a short period of abstinence or if the hepatitis is completely cured.

The adult human liver normally weighs 1.5 kilograms, the largest internal organ in the human body, and has several important functions. As we know, the liver is the key organ that metabolizes or breaks down alcohol; counteracting such poisoning is a process that transforms potentially toxic substances into less dangerous forms and pushes it out of the body. However, the liver is not able to detoxify or remove all toxic substances. It passes through hazardous substances that it is unable to neutralize.

The role of the liver in the human body can be compared to a link player in football. The food is broken down into the basic components ?? dextrose, amino acids and fatty acids ?? and gets fully digested in the body. All of these substances enter the liver via the portal vein and are changed into each required cell. When we do not have enough food to satisfy our appetite, the old axiom “Not the slightest hint to the liver,” is actually scientifically accurate.

The liver is said to be a “dull” or “tactless” human organ, like a cow. Unlike other organs that send distress signals directly, it serves well without uttering any complaints - until 70 percent of the liver is impaired, living up to its nickname, “the silent organ.”

Therefore, when the liver does give a cry of pain, it is likely to be already in an unrecoverable situation. We need to take care of it, before it sends a distress signal.

On Monday’s Liver Day, the Korean Association for the Study of the Liver released statistics that we need to pay attention to. Nearly 28 percent of adults are suffering from fatty liver disease, and the number of patients has tripled in the past two decades.

Fatty liver is a signal that marks the beginning of liver impairment. It takes a considerable amount of time for fatty liver to develop into cirrhosis or cancer. This allows adequate time for preparation.

Protecting the liver is rather easy. Drink less alcohol and gain less fat. If you stop drinking immediately there is a good chance you will recover.


The writer is a special health reporter for the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Park Tae-kyun [tkpark@joongang.co.kr]

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