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Cirrhosis, Primary Biliary

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biliary system primary biliary cirrhosisWhat Is Primary Biliary Cirrhosis?

Primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) is a biliary tract disease characterized by chronic cholestasis (build-up of bile) and gradual destruction of bile ducts within the liver, called intrahepatic bile ducts, caused by chronic inflammation.

Primary biliary cirrhosis comes under the umbrella term autoimune liver disease in which the end result is immune-mediated hepatocellular (liver cell) or hepatobiliary (bile duct) injury.1

Q: What is the end result of destruction of bile ducts?

A: The end result of destruction of bile ducts is liver damage.

Injured liver tissue from chronic inflammation and the buildup of bile leads to cirrhosis, a condition in which the liver slowly deteriorates and malfunctions.

Scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue, partially blocking the flow of blood through the liver. Scarring also impairs the liver’s normal ability to control infections, remove bacteria and toxins from the blood, process nutrients, hormones, and drugs, make proteins that regulate blood clotting, produce bile, and effectively replace its own cells when they become damaged.2

The liver is the largest organ within the body. It lies mostly in the upper part of the abdomen on the right side just under the diaphragm. About 70% of liver tissue is made up of cube shaped cells called hepatocytes that do the main work of the liver. Other cells (epithelial) form structure and are arranged in single layers around blood vessels, sinusoids, and bile ducts.

Bile ducts carry bile, a greenish brown liquid made by the liver to the gall bladder for storage until needed to aid in the digestion and absorption of fat and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K from the small intestine. Bile emulsifies fat eaten in the diet so that the pancreatic enzyme called lypase can break it down into its fatty acid and glycerol components which can then be absorbed into the body.

Bile also carries away waste products produced by normal metabolism and toxic substances that are removed by the liver for eventual elimination in stool. Bile is continually made by the liver from phospholipids, bile acids, cholesterol, and aging blood cells it removes from circulation. As such, bile must continually flow out of the liver to prevent build-up in the liver.

There is no cure for primary biliary cirrhosis.

What Is Primary Biliary Cirrhosis In Celiac Disease and/or Gluten Sensitivity?


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  1. Trivedi PJ, Adams DH. Mucosal immunity in liver autoimmunity: a comprehensive review. J Autoimmun. 2013 Oct;46:97-111. doi: 10.1016/j.jaut.2013.06.013. []
  2. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/primarybiliarycirrhosis/ []