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Anat Rec (Hoboken). 2008 Jun;291(6):614-27. doi: 10.1002/ar.20679.

Vascular development and differentiation during human liver organogenesis.

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  • 1Hospices Civils de Lyon, Hôpital Edouard Herriot, Service Central d'Anatomie et Cytologie Pathologiques, Lyon, France.


The vascular architecture of the human liver is established at the end of a complex embryological history. The hepatic primordium emerges at the 4th week and is in contact with two major venous systems of the fetal circulation: the vitelline veins and the umbilical veins. The fetal architecture of the afferent venous circulation of the liver is acquired between the 4th and the 6th week. At the end of this process, the portal vein is formed from several distinct segments of the vitelline veins; the portal sinus, deriving from the subhepatic intervitelline anastomosis, connects the umbilical vein, which is the predominant vessel of the fetal liver, to the portal system; the ductus venosus connects the portal sinus to the vena cava inferior. At birth, the umbilical vein and the ductus venosus collapse; the portal vein becomes the only afferent vein of the liver. The efferent venous vessels of the liver derive from the vitelline veins and are formed between the 4th and the 6th week. The hepatic artery forms at the 8th week; intrahepatic arterial branches progressively extend from the central to the peripheral areas of the liver between the 10th and the 15th week. Hepatic sinusoids appear very early, as soon as hepatic cords invade the septum transversum at the 4th week. They then progressively acquire their distinctive structural and functional characters, through a multistage process. Vascular development and differentiation during liver organogenesis is, therefore, a unique process; many of the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved remain poorly understood.

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