The pancreas is a rather unique organ in the human body. It is part of two different organ systems, the endocrine system and the digestive system. Technically, the pancreas is a large gland. A gland is a structure in the body that secrete hormones. The pancreas creates a wide range of different hormones, some of which are used to trigger internal metabolic reactions, and others which are used to help break down food. This article we'll take a look at the structure and function of the pancreas.
Structure of the pancreas
The pancreas is located just below the stomach. It develops as two separate parts which are fused together early in life. The pancreas is also located near the first part of the small intestine, known as the duodenum.
The pancreas is broken into several different subsections. The head of the pancreas is located nearest to the duodenum. The body of the pancreas is the largest section, located in the center of the gland just below the stomach. The pancreas also has a tail, which is furthest from the duodenum.
The pancreas receives its blood supply from various different arteries. These arteries all have very specific names, depending on where they originate from. Nerve supply to the pancreas is primarily through the vagus nerve.
There is a small duct, or drain, in the pancreas which leads to the common bile duct. This duct is used to drain the execrable hormones which aid in the digestion of food that is passing through the small intestine. In some people, this drain empties directly into the duodenum, however in most people it empties into the common bile duct. The common bile duct is the duct which drains bile from the gallbladder. The enzymes are mixed with bile and then drained into the duodenum.
Another major structure of the pancreas is known as the Islets of Langerhands. These islets are small structures dotted throughout the pancreas, and are responsible for producing insulin, as well as a wide variety of other hormones used by the body. It is estimated that each pancreas contains over one million of these islets.
Function of the pancreas
The pancreas is involved in a wide variety of functions in the endocrine and exocrine system. Lets first take a look at some of the endocrine functions of the pancreas. An endocrine hormone is a hormone produced by a gland (such as the pancreas) which is secreted directly into the blood stream. These hormones include insulin, glucagon, and somatostatin.
Insulin is famous for being the hormone which is deficient in people with diabetes. People with diabetes do not produce enough insulin (or are resistant to its effects, but this can get rather complicated, so I'll leave a discussion of diabetes alone for now). Insulin is responsible for regulating the amount of sugar which is absorbed into the cells of the body. Without enough insulin, the sugar remains in your bloodstream where it can cause significant health problems.
The pancreas is also an exocrine gland. Exocrine glands do not secrete hormones directly into the bloodstream. Rather, they secrete hormones into organs. In the case of the pancreas, enzymes are produced which are transported to the duodenum. These enzymes are used to aid digestion of food. Some of these hormones include pancreatic lipase, pancreatic amylase, and trypsin.
The pancreas is an extremely important organ in your body. It has a very complex structure and has many functions related to your metabolism. Damage to the pancreas can often be quite significant - hormones and digestive enzymes can be inappropriately released into the surrounding area, causing much damage. As is the case with many organs in the body, the pancreas is also subject to becoming cancerous.