Liver and digestion

The digestive (gastrointestinal) system is made up of the digestive tract – the oesophagus, stomach, intestines, rectum and anus and the pancreas, liver and gallbladder. Nutrients and fluids are absorbed into the bloodstream from food and drink and the waste is expelled from the body.

Gastrointestinal diseases and treatments

Diseases of the gastrointestinal system include:

  • diverticulitis – small pouches in the large intestine develop and these become inflamed and infected
  • inflammatory bowel diseases (e.g. Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis) – the small intestine, colon or the rectum become inflamed
  • bowel cancer (or colorectal cancer) – small non-cancerous polyps (clumps of cells) appear in the large intestine or rectum and these may become cancerous growths
  • liver fibrosis – a large amount of scar tissue forms in the liver
  • cirrhosis – late-stage liver fibrosis, the liver is permanently damaged
  • nonalcoholic liver disease – the build-up of extra fat in liver cells
  • hepatitis B or C – infections of the liver caused by viruses
  • liver cancer – cancerous growths in the liver.

Current treatments for gastrointestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel diseases include steroids and antibiotics and other drugs that work directly on the immune system. Diverticulitis is typically treated with antibiotics, while in severe cirrhosis of the liver, a transplant is the only treatment option. Surgery is commonly used to treat bowel cancer, with researchers investigating better ways to detect (e.g. with a blood test) and treat this disease.

Image caption: Fatty liver conceptual image, 3D illustration showing fatty liver silhouette made from micrograph of liver steatosis.

Image credit: Shutterstock

The institutes listed below are currently researching the areas of Liver and Digestion, and more information about their discoveries can be found by visiting their websites.
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