Function of the Pancreas

The pancreas plays a vital role in the process of digestion. It comprises endocrine and exocrine tissues that produce different hormones, which are required for the healthy functioning of the human body. This article provides information on the functions of this organ.
Nurse with pancreas
Pancreas can be defined as a glandular organ that is a part of the endocrine system and the digestive system. It is spongy and yellowish in color. It is about 15 cm in length and about 3.8 cm in width. It extends to the back of the abdomen, behind the stomach and is attached to the duodenum, which is the part of the small intestine between the stomach and the jejunum. As a part of the endocrine system, it produces hormones such as insulin, somatostatin, and glucagon. The exocrine section synthesizes and secretes pancreatic juices that contain digestive enzymes which are further passed into the small intestine. These digestive enzymes contribute to the breaking down of carbohydrates, fats, and protein content present in the half digested food.
Function
Pancreas is said to be a dual functioning gland, as it displays the properties of both endocrine as well as the exocrine glands.
Endocrine
This part of pancreas which performs endocrine function is formed out of millions of cell clusters. These cell clusters are known as the Islets of Langerhans. These islets consist of four types of cells, which are classified on the basis of the hormones they secrete. The cells that secrete glucagon are called alpha cells, whereas the cells that secrete insulin are known as the beta cells. Somatostatin is secreted by delta cells, whereas pancreatic polypeptide is secreted by the PP cells. The structure of islets comprises endocrine glands arranged in cords and clusters. These glands are crisscrossed by a thick chain of capillaries. These capillaries are lined up layers of cells that are in direct contact with the blood vessels in the gland. Some cells are in direct contact, while the others are connected through cytoplasmic processes.
Exocrine
This part of the pancreas generates digestive enzymes along with an alkaline fluid. Both of these are secreted into the small intestine through the ducts running through it. This function of secretion is performed in response to the hormones called cholecystokinin and secretin. The digestive enzymes produced by the exocrine glands include chymotrypsin, trypsin, pancreatic lipase, and pancreatic amylase. Digestive enzymes are actually produced by the acinar cells present in the exocrine pancreas. The cells lining the pancreatic ducts are called the centroacinar cells. The centroacinar cells secrete a solution rich in salt and bicarbonate contents into the intestine.
Thus, the pancreas plays an important role in carrying out certain vital bodily processes. Proper functioning of this organ is important, otherwise one could get affected by medical conditions such as pancreatitis and diabetes. Pancreatitis is inflammatory in nature, whereas diabetes is associated with inadequate secretion of insulin by this glandular organ. Following a healthy diet and an exercise regimen, and cutting down on the intake of alcohol have proven to be effective precautionary measures for these conditions.
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