Owing to its powers of regeneration, the liver is capable of in vivo "tissue engineering" which enables complete restoration of liver architecture and re-establishment of the specific functions of the liver after various types of liver injury. Our current understanding of liver regeneration forms the basis of modern liver surgery and is now taken into consideration in the treatment of many liver diseases, in liver transplantation and hepatic tissue engineering. These advances have been achieved primarily by studies of liver regeneration in animal models after partial hepatectomy, attention being focused on the general mechanisms of cell proliferation. In recent years, however, toxin-induced models of liver regeneration have assumed growing importance, and by studying the interaction between cell damage and cell regeneration have made possible an investigation of liver regeneration of greater clinical relevance. However, the mechanisms of liver regeneration in patients with pre-existing chronic liver damage such as liver cirrhosis are still largely unexplored. This review examines and critically appraises the various approaches to the study of liver regeneration in animal models, including both surgical and pharmacological approaches.