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Ductal plates in hepatic ductular reactions. Hypothesis and implications. II. Ontogenic liver growth in childhood


This article discusses the processes of bile duct growth and new lobule formation in the liver during childhood in the light of the ductal plate (DP) hypothesis. Unlike in other organs in which tubular elongation and branching ends with the creation of the organ-specific terminal differentiation products, in the liver a steadily enlarging parenchymal mass needs to establish continuity of its canalicular network with the existing bile duct system. The hypothesis suggests that this occurs by DP formation, like in the embryonic liver, and further assumes that pathological ductular reactions (DRs) induced by cholestasis or hypoxia are amplified equivalents of similar mechanisms operating at low level during liver growth. The concept is confronted with data on porcine liver growth, since swine and non-swine liver growth is thought to be comparable. Relative bile acid load may be the driving force for establishment of new canaliculo–ductular connections, supported in zones of relative hypoxia by hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha secreted by hepatocytes. The latter mechanism is at the base for induction of appropriate vascular changes in selected sinusoids, resulting in the development of portal inlet venules and additional draining central veins. The process gives rise to the formation of new single lobules by formation of new portal tracts or to the transformation of single lobules in compound lobules by development of new vascular septa. The concept of postnatal DP formation is important in the elucidation of several unexplained findings in adult liver diseases.

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I thank Tania Roskams for the helpful discussions and for providing the opportunity to keep in touch with progress in hepatopathology after my official retirement in 1996. Rita DeVos and Olivier Govaere deserve my gratitude for the help with the illustrations.

Conflict of interest statement

I declare that I have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Valeer J. Desmet.

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Desmet, V.J. Ductal plates in hepatic ductular reactions. Hypothesis and implications. II. Ontogenic liver growth in childhood. Virchows Arch 458, 261–270 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00428-011-1049-2

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  • Canaliculo–ductular junction
  • Choleohepaton
  • Ductal plate
  • Ductular reaction
  • Liver units
  • Ontogenic liver growth