October 1, 2023

What are hepatocytes?

A hepatocyte is a type of cell that is found in the liver.

What do hepatocytes do?

Hepatocytes are very active and versatile cells that help to keep the body healthy and balanced. They are also able to regenerate when they are damaged or lost.

The functions of a hepatocyte include:

  • Making proteins that are needed for blood clotting, transporting substances, and fighting infections.
  • Storing carbohydrates and fats that can be used for energy.
  • Changing sugars into other forms that can be used by the body or stored for later use.
  • Making cholesterol and bile, which help to digest fats and remove waste products from the body.
  • Breaking down and removing harmful substances, such as drugs, alcohol, and toxins, from the blood.

What do hepatocytes look like under the microscope?

Under the microscope, a hepatocyte is a large polygonal-shaped (many-sided) cell with one or two round nuclei in the center. The nuclei have dark spots called nucleoli, which are involved in making proteins. The cell also has a lot of cytoplasm, which is the fluid inside the cell that contains many organelles. These organelles help the cell to make and process different substances, such as proteins, fats, sugars, and bile. The cell also has some brown granules called lipofuscin, which are waste products that accumulate with age. The cell may also have some clear areas where it stores glycogen and lipids, which are forms of energy.


The hepatocyte is surrounded by thin walls called sinusoids, which are small blood vessels that bring blood to and from the liver. The hepatocyte has two types of surfaces: lateral and sinusoid. The lateral surfaces are in contact with other hepatocytes and form thin plates that radiate around a central vein. The sinusoid surfaces face the sinusoids and have small gaps or pores that allow substances to pass between the blood and the cell. Between the hepatocyte and the sinusoid, there is a small space called the space of Disse, which contains lymph fluid and some other cells, such as Kupffer cells and stellate cells. Kupffer cells are part of the immune system and help to remove bacteria and old red blood cells from the blood. Stellate cells store vitamin A and produce collagen, which is a protein that gives structure to tissues.

What types of cancers are made up of hepatocytes?

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of cancer made up of hepatocytes.

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