For Rebecca Taub, understanding liver regeneration may hold the key to at least one medical mystery. "If we can understand what happens during the growth of normal cells, we can understand cancerous growth," she explains.

There are a number of clinical syndromes in which the liver regenerates itself, including toxic damage to the liver by alcohol, acetaminophen, and infections such as hepatitis. Understanding what triggers regeneration, how the liver functions while the cells are replicating, and how the liver knows when to stop may hold the key to successful liver transplants, treatment of liver diseases, and-ultimately-an understanding of cancer cell growth.

Taub has focused on analyzing the initializing events of liver regeneration by looking at what genes are activated in the liver remnant within minutes of a partial hepatectomy. She and her colleagues have identified some of the signals that allow hepatocytes to go into cell growth, and have isolated...

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