Endogenous Pigments

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Endogenous Pigments

Endogenous pigments are characterized as hematogenous and nonhematogenous. Hematogenous pigments originate from blood and nonhematogenous pigments originate from non-blood, fat or fatlike, and non-fatlike substances.
Examples of endogenous hematogenous pigments found in the liver are hemosiderin and bilirubin. Examples of endogenous nonhematogenous pigments found in the liver are lipofuscin (fatlike) and copper (non-fatlike). Fetal liver tissue will always demonstrate endogenous nonhematogenous copper pigment.
The table provides more detail on examples of endogenous pigments:
Endogenous PigmentClassificationComments
  • Hemosiderin is ferric (+3 charge) iron and can be identified in organs such as the liver, spleen, and bone marrow.
  • Often demonstrated in the condition known as hemosiderosis, caused by an increase in iron intake.
  • Hemosiderosis may be attributed to transfusion, excess dietary iron consumption, or the breakdown of red blood cells.
LipofuscinNonhematogenous, fatlike
  • One of the most common endogenous pigments found in human tissues.
  • A yellowish-brown pigment found in increased amounts as cells age.
  • Commonly known as "age pigment."
  • Nerve, cardiac, and liver cells commonly demonstrate lipofuscin.
  • A bile pigment that is excreted by the hepatocytes of the liver.
  • When bilirubin is not excreted by hepatocytes, jaundice or yellowing of the skin can occur.
  • Jaundice is characteristic of several liver diseases.
  • A commonly known liver disease that causes jaundice in infants is neonatal hyperbilirubinemia, caused by hepatocytes that have underdeveloped smooth endoplasmic reticulum (SER).
CopperNonhematogenous, non-fatlike
  • A unique characteristic of fetal liver tissue is that it will ALWAYS demonstrate the presence of copper.
  • For this reason, fetal liver tissue acts as a good copper tissue control.