Pancreas

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The pancreas is a gland organ in the digestive and endocrine system of vertebrates. It is both an endocrine gland producing several important hormones, including insulin, glucagon, and somatostatin, as well as an exocrine gland, secreting pancreatic juice containing digestive enzymes that pass to the small intestine. These enzymes help to further break down the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in the chyme.

Contents

Histology

Under a microscope, stained sections of the pancreas reveal two different types of parenchymal tissue.[2] Lightly staining clusters of cells are called islets of Langerhans, which produce hormones that underlie the endocrine functions of the pancreas. Darker staining cells form acini connected to ducts. Acinar cells belong to the exocrine pancreas and secrete digestive enzymes into the gut via a system of ducts.

Function

The pancreas is a dual-function gland, having features of both endocrine and exocrine glands.

The part of the pancreas with endocrine function is made up of approximately a million[3] cell clusters called islets of Langerhans. Four main cell types exist in the islets. They are relatively difficult to distinguish using standard staining techniques, but they can be classified by their secretion: α cells secrete glucagon (increase glucose in blood), β cells secrete insulin (decrease glucose in blood), δ cells secrete somatostatin (regulates/stops α and β cells), and PP cells secrete pancreatic polypeptide.[4]

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