FACTS: According to the ancient Greeks, the Titan Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mankind. Zeus, to punish him, gave Prometheus to a giant eagle which ate his liver, whereupon it regenerated only to be consumed again.
Whether the ancient Greeks knew that the liver can in fact regenerate is a matter of some debate, though the story is certainly suggestive. But indeed, of the major internal organs, the liver is the only one that can do this – from as little as 25% of its mass.
The liver is also the largest internal organ (the skin is regarded as the largest organ overall) and was once thought to be the source of the four personality-governing humors: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm.
While modern man has determined that blood is actually made in the bones (and that the liver’s impact on personality is more diffuse), the liver is indeed the source of the bile. It also performs hundreds of other important functions, such as protein synthesis, glycogen storage, and hormone production, as well as detoxifying the blood stream. And these are critical tasks. When the liver is compromised by infection or injury, pale stools, dark urine, jaundiced skin, swollen ankles and feet, and frequent bruising can occur. And unless you’re a Titan, liver failure is fatal.
Heracles ultimately rescued Prometheus from the bird. Fortunately, with proper treatment, many liver conditions can be addressed, even without heroic intervention.
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