Module 1: The liver and hepatitis viruses - section 2

In this document:

Physiology and function of the liver

Activity: Group work discussion and supporting lecture
Section Time: Approximately 20 minutes

The purpose of this section is to help participants acquire a general understanding of liver function and its crucial role in maintaining health.

Show Slide 1.4 (Group work) and ask participants the following question making summary notes to flip chart:

To facilitate discussion:

  • Allow the participants to offer their own undirected ideas first
  • Use Slide 1.5 (Main functions of the liver) to encourage discussion and support further understanding.
  • For each function go into as much or as little detail as is suited to participant’s need.
  • Explain that the liver is highly specialized and has many functions that are vital for survival and that reduction of liver function will invariably compromise health.
  • Refer to Slide 1.6 (Importance of healthy liver function) to reinforce the significance of a healthy liver function.

Supporting content:

Medical terms related to the liver often start in hepato or hepatic from the Greek word for liver, hēpar.

The liver is one of the most important organs in the body. It is responsible for numerous vital functions and is essential in supporting almost every organ in the body. Important functions include regulating the levels of most of the main blood chemicals, rapidly producing energy by breaking down food and converting resultant glycogen stored in the liver and muscles into glucose ready for the body to use. The liver also helps the body get rid of waste products, which can be toxic if not removed from the body including drugs, damaged cells, proteins and old hormones.

The liver produces bile, a thick, green-yellow fluid that helps digest food, especially fat, as it passes from the stomach to the intestines. This fluid is made in the liver, but is stored in a nearby sac called the gallbladder. The liver is responsible for producing many of the essential amino acids and proteins important for the growth and repair of all bodily tissues and metabolic processes.

The liver plays a vital role in fighting infections by mobilizing and supporting the immune system. While the liver is capable of regenerating itself, its capacity to repair itself can be seriously impaired by repeated or extensive damage.

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