The role of the liver in metabolism is very important, with this organ being responsible for processing a number of compounds as they move through the body. People with dysfunctional livers in most cases will sicken and die very quickly without a transplant, although liver dialysis has been developed to partially compensate for a failing liver. A huge number of key chemical reactions take place in the liver and nowhere else in the body.
There are a number of different areas of functionality when it comes to metabolism and the liver. The liver is involved in the breakdown of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, splitting them into components the body can use with a series of chemical reactions. The role of the liver in metabolism also includes storage of chemical compounds the body needs to use in the future, like glycogen for energy. In addition, it takes the components it produces from the breakdown of various compounds and uses them to synthesize new ones.
Almost everything people ingest goes through the liver at some point during the process of metabolism. The liver turns useless compounds into useful ones, sequesters and eliminates toxins, and helps the body manage energy levels and regulate metabolic processes. One important component of the role of the liver as part of metabolism is in drug metabolism. Drugs absorbed through the gut will go through the liver, with the liver breaking them down into various byproducts. In drug overdoses, the liver becomes overloaded and cannot function anymore. With certain medications, the drug must be delivered via an alternate method to prevent it from being metabolized in the liver before it can take effect.
Numerous scientists study the role of the liver in metabolism, looking at the assorted metabolic pathways taken as compounds are processed by the liver. This research is applied to everything from understanding liver failure to developing medications that will be safe for the liver. Scientific research on the liver also includes the impact of liver disease on liver function, and the function of transplanted livers in patients with severe liver failure.
Many people are introduced to basic information about the function of the liver in metabolism in beginning biology classes, as they learn about some simple metabolic pathways and functions of the liver. As people take more advanced anatomy and physiology classes, they can learn more about the complex chemical reactions that take place in the liver around the clock to turn food into usable components, clear toxins from the body, and keep the body in a state of homeostasis.