Liver cell replacement and regeneration are vital functions that keep us feeling well and also maintain healthy metabolic activity. It’s a known fact that the liver can regenerate itself after taking damage but whether that ability fades with age has been long unknown. One study in rodents estimated the age of liver cells to be between 200 and 400 days, but it remained unclear whether this was reflected in humans.
A new study published in the journal Cell Systems on 31 May 2022 finds that age does not slow down the liver’s regeneration, rather it stays consistent throughout its lifetime. So, whether you’re 20 or 80 your liver is on-average just 3 years old! The German study revealed that this is because the liver is constantly renewing itself and replaces its cells at a similar rate in young and elderly people.
Lead researcher, Dr Olaf Bergman, of the Center for Regenerative Therapies in Dresden, stated. “Some studies pointed to the possibility that liver cells are long-lived while others showed a constant turnover. It was clear to us that if we want to know what happens in humans, we need to find a way to directly assess the age of human liver cells.”
During the study, Bergmann and his team of researchers used a technique called retrospective radiocarbon birth dating to determine the age of livers in a number of people who died between the ages of 20 and 84. In each of them, liver cells were consistently aged between the 3-year mark, no matter the age of the person.
However, a small percentage of cells can live up to 10 years before renewing themselves. Bergman stated that this could potentially be a protective feature, preserving the liver from adapting harmful mutations, like cancer, as these cells carry more DNA.