Today I was sad to read about this 26 year old man who is in need of a liver transplant after developing liver cirrhosis due to alcoholism aged just 21.*
The liver is a pretty magic organ, really; it has to take quite a major pummelling before you can damage it permanently, which is why it's all the more tragic and unusual for someone so young to have had such severe alcoholism as to cause liver failure.
So I thought I'd focus on the liver for my Interesting Medical Fact of the Week. Much like The Doctor, its regenerative capabilities are immense; it can regenerate itself after damage by alcohol consumption, drugs or surgery even if only 25% of its tissue is left healthy, and as such is the only internal organ capable of natural regeneration of lost tissue.
The reason that chronic liver disease is incurable (other than by transplant) once it has reached the stage of cirrhosis is that it affects the liver in a systemic way, affecting tissue equally throughout the organ rather than leaving areas of healthy tissue capable of regeneration.
So love your liver!
*For those of you non-hepatophiles, cirrhosis is the last stage of chronic liver disease;** it is irreversible and deeply unpleasant. You know I always try to link back to the pituitary in an almost-obsessive manner, and so I can tell you that cirrhosis can also lead to hypogonadism due to suppressed hypothalamic or pituitary function. Treatment focuses on preventing progression. In the West, alcoholism and Hepatitis C are the main causes, and in 2001 cirrhosis/chronic liver disease were the 10th leading cause of death for men in the US, and the 12th for women. Interestingly, it was named by Rene Laennec, the French doctor who invented the stethoscope in 1816.
**Other than death, I guess.