The liver is the largest internal organ and has the remarkable ability to regenerate. We study how immune cells in the liver microenvironment contribute to disease pathogenesis.
The liver receives blood containing immune cells from two sources:
- the hepatic artery, which delivers oxygen-rich blood from the heart,
- the portal vein, which delivers nutrient-rich blood that has passed through gut tissues.
The unique microenvironment of the liver allows for interactions of immune cells with liver-resident cells that can lead to successful clearance of infection, dampening of inflammation and damage repair. But this doesn’t always go to plan.
Livers that have undergone serious and/or prolonged insults can lose their remarkable ability to temper inflammation. Inflammation over the years can lead to progressive liver damage that can cause fibrosis, cirrhosis, liver cancer or end-stage liver disease requiring a transplant.
We work with explanted livers from donors that undergo life-saving surgery at the Queen Elizabeth hospital. Our patients’ livers have failed due to autoimmune disorders, viral infections, dietary injury such as a fatty diet or alcohol abuse, or other rarer abnormalities.
Tissues from donated livers reach our lab fast after surgery, preserving the cellular and humoral microenvironment. We build ex vivo models that will help us understand the mechanisms of liver inflammation, to identify new targets for therapeutic interventions. Close links with the Institute for Translational Medicine provide a route for discoveries at the Centre for Liver Research into clinical trials.