What does the liver do?

Why is the Liver so important?

What is the Liver?

  • The liver is the largest glandular organ of the body.
  • It weighs about 3 lb (1.36 kg).
  • It is reddish-brown in colour and is divided into four lobes of unequal size and shape.
  • The liver lies on the right side of the abdominal cavity beneath the diaphragm.
  • Blood is carried to the liver via two large vessels called the hepatic artery and the portal vein.
    1. The hepatic artery carries oxygen-rich blood from the aorta (a major vessel in the heart).
    2. The portal vein carries blood containing digested food from the small intestine.

What functions does the liver perform?

  • Production of bile, which helps carry away waste and break down fats in the small intestine during digestion
  • Production of certain proteins for blood plasma
  • Production of cholesterol and special proteins to help carry fats through the body
  • Conversion of excess glucose into glycogen for storage (This glycogen can later be converted back to glucose for energy.)
  • Regulation of blood levels of amino acids, which form the building blocks of proteins
  • Processing of hemoglobin for use of its iron content (The liver stores iron.)
  • Conversion of poisonous ammonia to urea (Urea is one of the end products of protein metabolism that is excreted in the urine.)
  • Clearing the blood of drugs and other poisonous substances
  • Regulating blood clotting
  • Resisting infections by producing immune factors and removing bacteria from the blood stream
  • Hormone metabolism
  • Phagocytosis(The engulfing and ingestion of bacteria or other foreign bodies by phagocytes)

When the liver has broken down harmful substances, they are excreted into the bile or blood. Bile by-products enter the intestine and ultimately leave the body in the feces. Blood by-products are filtered out by the kidneys and leave the body in the form of urine.

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