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Largest gland in the body, with several lobes. It secretes bile; metabolizes proteins, carbohydrates, and fats; stores glycogen, vitamins, and other substances; synthesizes coagulation factors; removes wastes and toxic matter from the blood; regulates blood volume; and destroys old red blood cells. The portal vein carries blood from the gastrointestinal tract, gallbladder, pancreas, and spleen to the liver to be processed. A duct system carries bile from the liver to the duodenum and the gallbladder. Liver tissue consists of a mass of cells tunneled with bile ducts and blood vessels. About 60% are hepatic cells, which have more metabolic functions than any other cells. A second type, Kupffer cells, play a role in blood-cell formation, antibody production, and ingestion of foreign particles and cell debris. The liver manufactures plasma proteins, including albumin and clotting factors, and synthesizes enzymes that modify substances such as nutrients and toxins, filtered from the blood. Liver disorders include jaundice, hepatitis, cirrhosis, tumours, vascular obstruction, abscess, and glycogen-storage diseases.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on liver, visit Britannica.com.