Journal article 424 views
Early developmental influences on hepatic organogenesis
Organogenesis, Volume: 4, Issue: 3, Pages: 170 - 175
Swansea University Author: Melanie Healy
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The liver is the largest of the body's organs, with the greatest number of functions, playing a central role in coordinating metabolic homeostasis, nutrient processing and detoxification. The fetal liver forms during early gestation in response to a sequential array of distinct biological event...
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The liver is the largest of the body's organs, with the greatest number of functions, playing a central role in coordinating metabolic homeostasis, nutrient processing and detoxification. The fetal liver forms during early gestation in response to a sequential array of distinct biological events, regulated by intrinsically programmed mechanisms and extracellular signals which instruct hepatic cells to either proliferate, differentiate or undergo apoptosis. A vast number of genes are involved in the initiation and control of liver development, many of which are sensitive to nutritional and hormonal regulation in utero. Moreover, liver mass is influenced by the gestational environment. Therefore, during periods of hepatic cell proliferation and differentiation, the developing fetal liver is sensitive to damage from both internal and external sources including teratogens, infection and nutritional deficiencies. For example, fetuses exposed to decreased materno-fetal nutrition during late gestation have a reduced liver mass, and/or perturbed liver function, which includes increased plasma LDL cholesterol and fibrinogen concentrations. These occur in conjunction with other risk factors present in the early stages of cardiovascular disease i.e. decreased glucose tolerance and insulin insensitivity in later life. Taken together, these findings suggest that liver mass, and later function, are essentially set in utero during fetal development—a process that is ultimately regulated by the intrauterine environment.
Swansea University Medical School