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World J Gastroenterol. 2013 Jun 21;19(23):3534-42. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v19.i23.3534.

Liver-spleen axis: intersection between immunity, infections and metabolism.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery, Federico II University Medical School of Naples, 80131 Naples, Italy.


Spleen has been considered a neglected organ so far, even though is strictly linked to liver. The spleen plays an important role in the modulation of the immune system and in the maintenance of peripheral tolerance via the clearance of circulating apoptotic cells, the differentiation and activation of T and B cells and production of antibodies in the white pulp. Moreover, splenic macrophages are able to remove bacteria from the blood and protect from sepsis during systemic infections. We review the spleen function and its assessment in humans starting from the description of spleen diseases, ranging from the congenital asplenia to secondary hyposplenism. From the literature data it is clear that obesity in humans affects different compartments of immune system, even thought there are still few data available on the implicated mechamisms. The intent is to enable clinicians to evaluate the newly recognized role of metabolic and endocrine functions of the spleen with special emphasis to obesity and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in the context of the available literature. Moreover, understanding the spleen function could be important to develop appropriate prevention strategies in order to counteract the pandemia of obesity. In this direction, we suggest spleen longitudinal diameter at ultrasonography, as simple, cheap and largely available tool, be used as new marker for assessing splenic function, in the context of the so-called liver-spleen axis.


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease; Obesity; Spleen size

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