The liver’s amazing ability to repair itself is the stuff of legend and, increasingly, scientific understanding. A new study, for example, has found that liver repair is aided by a diffuse population of rare stem cells. These stem cells produce elevated levels of telomerase, a protein often associated with resistance to aging. In addition, these stem cells express fewer metabolic genes, perhaps to avoid the wear and tear sustained by other liver cell populations.

The new findings, which were uncovered at the Stanford University School of Medicine, appeared April 4 in the journal Nature , in an article entitled, “ Distributed hepatocytes expressing telomerase repopulate the liver in homeostasis and injury .” This article demonstrates that in mice, about 3–5% of all liver cells consist of liver stem cells that intensify telomerase production and ease off metabolism. These stem cells, which are evenly distributed through the liver’s lobules, …