Diabetes & Pancreas

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The pancreas is an organ situated within your abdomen than fulfils a number of important functions. It is both an endocrine and exocrine gland which means that it secretes hormones (chemical messengers) into the blood stream (such as insulin) as well as secreting other products into ducts to be released into the external environment (such as digestive enzymes). The exocrine cells are found in the area of the pancreas known as the pancreatic acini whereas the endocrine cells are found in the area of the pancreas known as the islets of Langerhans. The pancreas receives signals from hormones within the blood stream as well as signals from the autonomous nervous system that stimulate it to release specific types and amounts of its hormones (and/or chemicals) that act to regulate the internal environment of your body. For example, the pancreas is responsible for regulating the amount of sugar in your blood. Various diseases of the pancreas can lead to a loss of function in one or both of these areas which prevents the hormones and digestive enzymes from being made available to the body. For example, diabetes occurs when damage is caused to a specific type of cell within the islets of Langerhans known as the β cells. These cells are the only cells in the pancreas that are able to produce the hormone insulin. Insulin acts to reduce the amount of sugar in the blood stream by making it available for the body’s cells to absorb and reduce the amount released by the liver from the stores.  

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