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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the location and structure of the pancreas, and the morphology and function of the pancreatic islets
  • Compare and contrast the functions of insulin and glucagon

The pancreas    is a long, slender organ, most of which is located posterior to the bottom half of the stomach ( [link] ). Although it is primarily an exocrine gland, secreting a variety of digestive enzymes, the pancreas has an endocrine function. Its pancreatic islets    —clusters of cells formerly known as the islets of Langerhans—secrete the hormones glucagon, insulin, somatostatin, and pancreatic polypeptide (PP).


This diagram shows the anatomy of the pancreas. The left, larger side of the pancreas is seated within the curve of the duodenum of the small intestine. The smaller, rightmost tip of the pancreas is located near the spleen. The splenic artery is seen travelling to the spleen, however, it has several branches connecting to the pancreas. An interior view of the pancreas shows that the pancreatic duct is a large tube running through the center of the pancreas. It branches throughout its length in to several horseshoe- shaped pockets of acinar cells. These cells secrete digestive enzymes, which travel down the bile duct and into the small intestine. There are also small pancreatic islets scattered throughout the pancreas. The pancreatic islets secrete the pancreatic hormones insulin and glucagon into the splenic artery. An inset micrograph shows that the pancreatic islets are small discs of tissue consisting of a thin, outer ring called the exocrine acinus, a thicker, inner ring of beta cells and a central circle of alpha cells.
The pancreatic exocrine function involves the acinar cells secreting digestive enzymes that are transported into the small intestine by the pancreatic duct. Its endocrine function involves the secretion of insulin (produced by beta cells) and glucagon (produced by alpha cells) within the pancreatic islets. These two hormones regulate the rate of glucose metabolism in the body. The micrograph reveals pancreatic islets. LM × 760. (Micrograph provided by the Regents of University of Michigan Medical School © 2012)

View the University of Michigan WebScope at (External Link)  to explore the tissue sample in greater detail.

Cells and secretions of the pancreatic islets

The pancreatic islets each contain four varieties of cells:

  • The alpha cell    produces the hormone glucagon and makes up approximately 20 percent of each islet. Glucagon plays an important role in blood glucose regulation; low blood glucose levels stimulate its release.
  • The beta cell    produces the hormone insulin and makes up approximately 75 percent of each islet. Elevated blood glucose levels stimulate the release of insulin.
  • The delta cell    accounts for four percent of the islet cells and secretes the peptide hormone somatostatin. Recall that somatostatin is also released by the hypothalamus (as GHIH), and the stomach and intestines also secrete it. An inhibiting hormone, pancreatic somatostatin inhibits the release of both glucagon and insulin.
  • The PP cell    accounts for about one percent of islet cells and secretes the pancreatic polypeptide hormone. It is thought to play a role in appetite, as well as in the regulation of pancreatic exocrine and endocrine secretions. Pancreatic polypeptide released following a meal may reduce further food consumption; however, it is also released in response to fasting.

Regulation of blood glucose levels by insulin and glucagon

Glucose is required for cellular respiration and is the preferred fuel for all body cells. The body derives glucose from the breakdown of the carbohydrate-containing foods and drinks we consume. Glucose not immediately taken up by cells for fuel can be stored by the liver and muscles as glycogen, or converted to triglycerides and stored in the adipose tissue. Hormones regulate both the storage and the utilization of glucose as required. Receptors located in the pancreas sense blood glucose levels, and subsequently the pancreatic cells secrete glucagon or insulin to maintain normal levels.

Questions & Answers

Its a fusion of bones where the bones becomes flexible or stiff.. Its a kind of arthritis
rumana Reply
what is ankylosis
Adam Reply
master gland Kon si h
kajal Reply
Pituitary gland
pituitary gland because it give harmonies and control other gland
glands often secrete hormones which play an important role in maintaining homeostasis.
pituitary gland
pituitary gland is master gland because it present in biran and secrtehormones and play other gland of human body and function its gland so that also called master gland.
pituitary glandis the master gland of our body
how do you study for A&P? lab and lecture?
Aubrey Reply
depends how your lab exams and lecture exams are structured. but either way, you want to study two weeks before any of the exams. study in a way that you would be teaching it to someone. lec is mostly physio. and a lil' anatomy. lab is all anatomy and motion- so memorization is key.
record the lectures in both cases. read the lessons for that class day. have questions. go to office hours. this will help you in A&P- if anything the teacher would give you a little bit of points for making so much of an effort
When one is suffering from motion sickness what area of the brain may trigger emesis?
amy Reply
that is the sign of stroke. if the patient have a stroke. the left side of body is weakness, the affected right of cerebrum but if right side of the body is weakness surely in left side!
thank you sooo much bro
Fatima Reply
Fatima hw a u
any one elaborate fr me foramens of the skull and features which they transmit
icant undrestand plz
zahruuzh Reply
try to read I hop you will understand
state and explain 20 radiology uses
what are chemicals in anatomy and physiology?
Mike Reply
what can I do to find it easy for me in anatomy and physiology course
study up on the basics of the periodic chart, learn bones and muscles attachments, and learn muscles. Those take the longest to memorize. After that it should be a little easier.
what are the two types of body cells
Jennifer Reply
what is malnutrition
malnutrition refers to faulty nutrition resulting from malabsorption,poor diet or overeating. Sometimes too these food do not contain all the six food nutrients in their right proportion.
thank you
Will u be malnourished?
What's the difference between radiology and radiology
Nothing! Radiology it means the study or using of radiation in medical science it can be 1.diagnose or treatment diagnosed radiology! x- ray. ultrasound. ct-scan. mammogram. MRI. 2. treatmen- radiation oncology, like Cobalt 60. and nuclear medicine
what is X-ray?
X-ray is type of light that make it possible to see inside any object. as human body
How the nervous system develops
ayiesher Reply
From the cells at the back of an embryo
breifly explain anatomy of thorax
Hadiza Reply
How many region the rib is divided
how many bon of human being
how to study for the skeletal system
and anatomy
I really need sources immediately
I printed out all the different bones. Put them in the see through protective sheaths and got dry erase markers. I could right on them and erase to help me learn to spell the names of markings and bones.
Or go to a book store, Barnes and Noble(doesn't have to be this) and they have coloring books for anatomy. $16. Really helpful.
okay thanks and are what study tools you use to study the materials and get a better understanding
*what are
I prefer diagrams, pictures that lay out each step with the information in each step. For Example: how action potential creates muscles to move. A pictured diagram gives me a better understanding of how each piece plays a role in each step of the process.
Also for basics, such as memorizing vocab. Flash cards are great. Don't become discouraged if you don't get them all right the first times through. The more you go through them, your brain will remember pieces of information from each and help you to pull out the information 😉
okay thanks
what is the functions of the lips in human
Momboi Reply
could I say sensation?
for protection
Lips assist in speech and eating
Too many easy questions. Which bones are the axial and appendicular? What are the abbreviations for TEE, TTE, AED, A-Mode, B-Mode, and LTH? What is the difference between hypothalamus and thalamus? Where is the parathyroid located? How many True Ribs do we have?
Sovilace Reply
Transesophageal echocardiography Transthoracic Echocardiography automated external defibrillator brightnees mode Los Hermanos Taverna
what is anatomy
okello Reply
anatomy is scientific study of body structures and how they relate to each other

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