The liver is known for its ability to regenerate. It can completely regrow itself even after two-thirds of its mass has been surgically removed. But damage from medications, alcohol abuse or obesity can eventually cause the liver to fail. Currently, the only effective treatment for end-stage liver disease is transplantation.
However, there is a dearth of organs available for transplantation. Patients may have to wait from 30 days to over five years to receive a liver for transplant in the U.S. Of the over 11,600 patients on the waiting list to receive a liver transplant in 2021, only a little over 9,200 received one.
But what if, instead of liver transplantation, there were a drug that could help the liver regenerate itself?
I am the founding director of the Pittsburgh Liver Research Center and run a lab studying liver regeneration and cancer. In our recently published research, my team and I found that activating a particular protein with a new medication can help accelerate regeneration and repair after severe liver injury or partial surgical removal in mice.