Although liver architecture has a major impact on function, morphological aspects of liver growth are relatively neglected. In our recent experiments, the architectural changes of the rat liver were compared during 2 basic processes: ontogeny and regenerative liver growth. The hepatic tissue is constructed as structural/functional units, and probably the most established and well-defined such unit is the classic lobule. The extent and orientation of the lobules are variable in the liver, and this renders their accurate size determination more difficult. The filling of the liver vasculature by a colored resin nicely outlined the surface lobules, enabling an analysis of the alterations of these structures during liver growth. There are 3 structural components of postnatal physiological liver development: enlargement of the hepatocytes and expansion and multiplication of the liver lobules. However, the enlargement of the lobules, is exclusively responsible for the regenerative liver growth following partial hepatectomy. The number of hepatic lobules does not change during this latter reaction, but they gain a more complex, irregular structure.
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