The pancreas

The pancreas

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In the late nineteenth century, in Germany, medical student Paul Langerhans was studying slides containing sections of pancreatic tissue under the microscope and found a profusion of groups of pancreatic cells surrounded by blood vessels.

These groupings, which were later named islets of Langerhans (or pancreatic islets), are the sites of production of two hormones, insulin (from Latin, insula = island) and glucagon.

On each Langerhans islet, two cell types are responsible for the synthesis of pancreatic hormones: alpha cells, that produce glucagon, and the beta cells, responsible for the synthesis of insulin.

Insulin is a hypoglycemic hormone: It facilitates the entry of blood glucose into various cell types, particularly muscle and liver cells, where glucose molecules are stored as an insoluble reserve substance, glycogen.

Glucagon, by contrast, is a hyperglycemic hormone, by favoring hepatic glycogen hydrolysis, which leads to the release of glucose into the blood. They are therefore hormones of antagonistic action. Glucagon acts under normal conditions; Its effect is enhanced by adrenaline in stress or emergency situations.


After a high-carbohydrate meal, increases the blood glucose content, ie increases blood glucose, causing the release of insulin by the pancreas. Insulin favors the entry of glucose into cells, especially muscle and liver cells, while stimulating glycogen formation, thereby reducing blood glucose. By lowering blood glucose, the insulin content is reduced and everything is back to normal.

On occasions when you take a meal, your blood is temporarily low in glucose, ie hypoglycaemia occurs. It is normal at this time for some dizziness and drowsiness. Immediately, the pancreas releases glucagon which, by targeting liver cells, favors the hydrolysis of stored glycogen and the release of glucose into the blood, regulating blood glucose.

Diabetes Mellitus

Disorder caused by decreased insulin production or decreased ability to use insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, necessary for cells to be able to use blood sugar.

Causes, incidence and risk factors

The cause of diabetes mellitus is unknown, but heredity and diet are believed to play an important role in its development. Diabetes is triggered when the pancreas produces insufficient amounts of insulin to meet the body's needs, or when the pancreas produces insulin, but cells are unable to use it effectively (insulin resistance).

Insulin is needed for blood sugar (glucose) to reach inside cells; If it does not, the body cannot use it. Excess sugar remains in the blood and is then eliminated by the kidneys. Symptoms such as excessive thirst, frequent urination and hunger develop. Carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism is altered.
Glucose is the body's main source of energy, but when in excess, it can bring several health complications.

When not properly treated, it causes diseases such as heart infarction, stroke, kidney failure, visual problems and hard-to-heal lesions, among other complications.
Although there is still no definitive cure for diabetes, there are several treatments available that, when followed regularly, provide health and quality of life for the patient with it.

Currently, an estimated 240 million people are diabetic, which means that 6% of the population has diabetes.

According to an international projection, the population of diabetic patients worldwide will increase by 2025 by more than 50% to 380 million people suffering from this chronic disease.