The pancreas is an abdominal gland. This gland is the both, endocrine and exocrine. Endocrine hormones produced by the pancreas include insulin, glucagon and Somatostatin while the exocrine part of the pancreas is in charge with production of pancreatic enzymes necessary for proper digestion of food. This gland is rather precious and once it is damaged it causes severe functional disorders and may lead to serious complications.
Endocrine part of the pancreas consists of around a million cell clusters medically known as islets of Langerhans. These islets contain four mail cell types. The difference between these cells is related to the products they synthesize. α cells are in charge with secretion of glucagon. Glucagon increases the level of sugar in blood. β cells of Langerhans islets produce insulin, the most important hormone in regulation of sugar in blood. Insulin decreases the level of sugar in blood. Third group of cells, δ cells, regulate function of both, α and β cells. And finally, PP cells are in charge with production of pancreatic polypeptide.
Islets of Langerhans are arranged in clusters and crisscrossed by a dense network of capillaries. Majority of the endocrine cells are in direct contact with blood vessels which ease the entrance of hormones into the blood stream.
Apart from synthesizing the hormones, the pancreas also produces pancreatic juices and releases them into the small intestine. These juices are necessary fro proper digestion of food and its components.
Once the proper functioning of the pancreas has been jeopardized the hormonal imbalance affects numerous organs and organs systems in the body. Inadequate production of hormones and pancreatic juices is typical in several conditions including pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, cystic fibrosis and diabetes.
Pancreatitis is an inflammatory disease of pancreas. It may be acute or chronic and it seriously damages the structure of the gland and leads to numerous complications. In pancreatitis the damage is caused by auto digestion of the gland.
Pancreatic cancer is another medical condition which interferes in normal production of all substances in pancreas. The growth of the tumor destroys the pancreatic cells and it may also clog the pancreatic duct and lead to pancreatitis and auto digestion of the gland.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disease in which thick and sticky mucous may cause blockage of the ducts in the pancreas which consequently leads to malfunctioning of the gland.
And finally, in diabetes the production of insulin is insufficient or totally absent and this leads to increased levels of sugar in blood.