The capability of the liver to fully regenerate after injury is a unique phenomenon essential for the maintenance of its important functions in the control of metabolism and xenobiotic detoxification. The regeneration process is histologically well described, but the genes that orchestrate liver regeneration have been only partially characterized. Of particular interest are cytokines and growth factors, which control different phases of liver regeneration. Historically, their potential functions in this process were addressed by analyzing their expression in the regenerating liver of rodents. Some of the predicted roles were confirmed using functional studies, including systemic delivery of recombinant growth factors, neutralizing antibodies or siRNAs prior to liver injury or during liver regeneration. In particular, the availability of genetically modified mice and their use in liver regeneration studies has unraveled novel and often unexpected functions of growth factors, cytokines and their downstream signalling targets in liver regeneration. This review summarizes the results obtained by functional studies that have addressed the roles and mechanisms of action of growth factors and cytokines in liver regeneration after acute injury to this organ.