The Pancreas: Controlling Glucose

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The Pancreas: Controlling Glucose

The pancreas is a leaf-shaped organ just below the stomach:

The Pancreas: Controlling Glucose

It has a complex function in the body. It secretes an alkaline solution containing enzymes into the digestive tract. But it also contains cells that secrete hormones into the blood stream.

Two of these are important in controlling the level of glucose in the blood stream.

Glucose is the basic fuel for aerobic respiration and is needed by all cells. The heart and brain use glucose as their sole fuel supply.

The blood stream delivers it from the digestive system to all the cells in the body. Without the ability to maintain its levels, we would be in danger of running out of this important fuel. Not a good idea!

If the blood glucose levels fall, we feel light-headed and run the risk of passing out, coma and death!

We could only maintain our blood glucose by eating and digesting all the time. But our body has a system to save us from that. It stores extra glucose for later.

The liver converts the simple sugar glucose into a long-chained molecule called glycogen. Glycogen is used as it is insoluble and doesn't need so much water to store it, unlike glucose.

This reaction can also be reversed:

The Pancreas: Controlling Glucose

This process controlled by the two hormones secreted by the pancreas.

When there is too little glucose in the blood, it is detected. The pancreas secretes the hormone glucagon.

This causes the liver to convert glycogen back into glucose.

When this gets back into the blood it returns the glucose level to normal.

The Pancreas: Controlling Glucose

When we have too much glucose in our blood, we secrete insulin to store it for later.

The Pancreas: Controlling Glucose

Diabetes mellitus is a disease in which the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin.

As a result, a diabetic cannot store glucose as glycogen for later use. So they use up all the glucose in their blood and then go into a coma.

One treatment is to inject insulin after a meal. This stores the extra glucose as glycogen. Therefore they will have enough glucose for later on.

Diabetics have to test their blood regularly to monitor their blood glucose. When it gets too high they inject insulin. If it is too low, they eat something.

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