The Pancreas

The Pancreas

A fish-shaped, spongy, grayish-pink organ about 6 inches (15 cm) long that stretches across the back of the abdomen, behind the stomach. The head of the pancreas is on the right side of the abdomen and is connected to the duodenum (the first section of the small intestine). The narrow end of the pancreas, called the tail, extends to the left side of the body.

As the concentration of glucose in the bloodstream rises, the pancreas receives a signal to release the hormone, insulin. Insulin attaches itself to cells, allowing glucose to enter. In a muscle cell, the insulin will “inject” glucose into the cell so that the muscle has energy to contract.

The pancreas secretes the hormones insulin, glucagon, and somatostatin. About 70% of the hormones the pancreas secretes are called beta cells that secrete insulin; another 20%, are called alpha cells that secrete glucagon. The remaining gamma cells secrete somatostatin, (GHIH).

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