After the partial surgical removal of rat livers, cells from the bone marrow are recruited to the liver and repopulate the vascular lining of the organ.
The recruited bone-marrow cells are called progenitor cells and are the offspring of stem cells. Once lodged in the liver, the progenitor cells become liver sinusoidal endothelial cells, the specialized cells that line the liver’s vascular system and perform a variety of functions. These progenitor cells also are a major source of hepatocyte growth factor, which stimulates liver-cell proliferation when a portion of a rat’s liver is removed.
Suppression of bone-marrow function can be a serious side effect of chemotherapy and certain drugs, and is seen in various diseases. The liver detoxifies chemicals, metabolizes drugs and makes proteins important for blood clotting and other functions. It's the only solid organ that has the ability to regenerate after it has sustained significant tissue damage and even after partial surgical removal.
Adapted from the University of Southern California announcement.