I have read a title of a paper on pubmed like this: Aging increases mitochondrial DNA damage and oxidative stress in liver of rhesus monkeys.

(source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22027539)

Since articles are words that define a noun as specific or unspecific, and it has indicated this paper is about the specific liver of rhesus monkey, so what I think the correct title is: Aging increases mitochondrial DNA damage and oxidative stress in the livers of rhesus monkeys (or in the liver of rhesus monkey). Am I wrong?


If the definite article were only missing in the title, I might be inclined to accept the idea that it was simply abbreviated writing, commonly called headlinese.

Looking at the Abstract, it is clear that the authors are referring to liver tissue, rather than to complete organs. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, tissue is uncountable, and so liver used in the sense of liver tissue would also be uncountable. Usage of the definite article would therefore be incorrect. Here are two quotes from the the abstract:

We measured mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) damage by quantitative PCR in liver and peripheral blood mononuclear cells of young, middle age, and old monkeys and show that older monkeys have increases in the number of mtDNA lesions.

Liver from older monkeys showed significant increases in lipid peroxidation, protein carbonylations and reduced antioxidant enzyme activity.

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  • But, even 'liver' here means liver tissue that is uncountable, it still indicates the specific liver tissue of rhesus monkeys, why can't say 'in the liver of rhesus monkeys'? – sdasd tont Apr 15 '17 at 13:00
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    @sdasdtont, If you say the liver, you are referring to the organ. You could say "the liver of a rhesus monkey", but if you are talking about more than one monkey, you would have to say "the livers of rhesus monkeys" – JavaLatte Apr 15 '17 at 16:21

"in liver" could refer to organ tissue. Or it could simply be a deliberately terse title, which doesn't reflect the spoken idiom, an analogue of "headline" writing.

A native speaker not trying to be extra-terse might say "in the livers of rhesus monkeys" and mean in the organs from a group of specimens of that species or "in the liver of rhesus monkeys" and mean in the organ (which all have).

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