Volume 3 Issue 4

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liver transplants. Once the hepatitis C virus gets into the liver, it is extremely difficult to eradicate. ere are no effective drug treatments, and unlike Types A and B, no vaccine has been developed to prevent it. Like HIV, hepatitis C is transmitted by intimate contact with the blood of an infected person, such as through needle stick, body piercing/tattooing, blood transfusion, or sexual contact. Fibrosis and Cirrhosis Fibrosis and cirrhosis can be caused by a wide variety of agents, but it is usually chemical exposure or excessive long-term alcohol use that does the damage. Fibrosis is a scarring of the liver tissue in response to injury. Fibrotic regions do not function like normal liver tissue and, depending on the location, may block important ducts or blood vessels. Cirrhosis is basically widespread fibrosis. As scar tissue progresses, blood flow through the liver falls, leading to further liver damage. ere is no cure of advanced cirrhosis. Xenobiotic Liver Damage While the liver is a highly effective detoxification factory, too heavy a load can overwhelm its abilities to neutralize free radicals and other toxic byproducts of metabolism. High levels of environmental toxins, combined with the use of drugs (including many common prescription and over-the-counter drugs), alcohol, and other everyday chemicals, are believed to be at least partly responsible for the current rise in liver disorders, up to and including liver cancer. e liver has ample resources for metabolizing many drugs and toxins, usually by oxidation, reduction, or conjugation. Damage to liver tissue is common during the metabolism of many drugs, environmental toxins, or other xenobiotic (foreign to the body) substances. Such damage may be caused directly by the toxicity of the substance, or indirectly due to the actions of potent free radicals released during the metabolism of these substances. e normal liver can usually handle this xenobiotic assault by throwing a variety of powerful antioxidants, enzymes, and other substances at the foreign intruders. And even when some liver cells give up their lives in the defense of the body, the liver can usually regenerate fresh replacements. Problems arise when the toxic load exceeds the liver's ability to compensate and regenerate itself. Exposure to high levels of hydrocarbons such as carbon tetrachloride (used as a cleaning fluid) over a long period of time can promote severe necrosis and fatty infiltration of liver tissue – a direct toxic effect. More common, though, are indirect insults, such as those caused by drugs like acetaminophen (Tylenol). High doses of acetaminophen deplete the liver of the important antioxidant glutathione, which the liver produces in order to neutralize free radicals that would otherwise damage liver tissue. With many drugs, the normal process of detoxification may release large numbers of dangerous free radical species. One reason excessive alcohol use is so dangerous is that is can lead to destruction of the liver's glutathione- producing tissue, reducing glutathione levels, not just in the liver, but all over the body. At the same time, free radicals generated by alcohol consumption can depress Abby's Magazine - July/August 2015 | Page 45

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