The normal human liver receives a substantial autonomic innervation that is thought to subserve motor, metabolic, and sensory functions. In this study an antibody to a neural axoplasmic protein (PGP 9.5) was used to visualise autonomic nerves in tissue from normal, precirrhotic, and cirrhotic livers. Nerve fibres were readily identified in the parenchyma and portal tracts of normal livers, and in those where the histological diagnosis was non-specific reactive hepatitis or acute liver injury. In precirrhotic and cirrhotic livers nerves in portal tracts and fibrous septae remained prominent, but the parenchymal innervation was reduced in precirrhotic livers and was absent from regenerating nodules in established cirrhosis. The causes and functional consequences of this parenchymal denervation in cirrhosis remain to be established.
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