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The liver is the largest — and some say the most vital — organ in the body. Anatomically, it is formed of plate-like clusters of cells called hepatocytes. These clusters of cells are arranged in hexagonal shapes one or two cells thick in spoke-like structures called hepatic lobules. Each lobule has a central vein and a canal running around the edge, called the portal canal, and the space along this canal is called the space of Mall.
The space of Mall is also called the periportal space of Mall, as well as the portal triad. It is called the portal triad because it is closely intertwined with the portal canal which contains branches of the hepatic artery, branches of the hepatic portal vein, and a space. In liver anatomy, the hepatic artery brings blood from the heart to the liver, and the hepatic portal vein brings blood with the nutrients culled from digested food from the intestines to the liver cells.
Blood exchange between the branches of the hepatic artery and portal vein occurs in this area. It is also one of the places where lymph fluid is created inside the liver. Blood is also filtered within the liver in this space, although it is filtered differently than the way blood is filtered by the kidneys. Filtration in the liver selects chemicals, such as drugs, alcohol, and other toxins from the blood which are converted to less toxic substances for the body.
The space of Mall is a primary component of the digestive system. This is due to the fact that bile produced by the liver is collected here. Ducts draining the bile manufactured by the liver are surrounded by a mesh of tiny branches of the hepatic artery. Blood flowing from the hepatic artery goes through this space before draining off into the portal veins, while the bile flows out through the bile ducts to the small intestine, with some stored in the gallbladder.
The space of Disse is a smaller continuation of the space of Mall. This smaller space is located between individual liver cells and tiny blood vessels. While the space of Mall enables exchange of arterial and venous blood, along with bile collection and transport out of the liver, the space of Disse provides nutrition to individual liver cells. It does this by perfusing proteins and other cell nutrition substances from adjacent arterial vessels directly into liver cells, where they are absorbed.
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