Islets Of Langerhans

Also referred to as islands of Langerhans, this odd name is derived form the German doctor who discovered them and is given to the endocrine tissue which is located within the pancreas. These islets are made up of four distinct types of cells. Alpha, beta and delta cells, which all produce hormones, make up three of these types. The fourth type, called C cells, serves no real purpose. Combined, all four cell types total approximately one million strong.

Each of the three working cells serve a specific purpose:

* Alpha cells produce a hormone known as glucagon. This hormone serves a two-fold purpose: it removes fatty acids from fat tissues and it releases glucose from the liver. These two functions react in unison to prohibit the release of glucagon.

* Beta cells work to manufacture insulin. Insulin serves many purposes, the primary one being to regulate carbohydrates, fats and proteins within the body. It forces cells to remove glucose from the blood and store it in different places, such as the liver and muscles. It also blocks the release of glucagon which prevents fat from being used as energy.

Insulin is typically released from the beta cells when glucose levels become elevated. It can also be released by glucagon. When glucose levels increase, the body releases insulin as a way to counteract it. When not enough insulin is manufactured or a sufficient amount of it is available but it is not being properly released, diabetes occurs.

* Delta cells manufactures a hormone that regulates the endocrine system known as somatostatin. Somatostatin also inhibits other chemicals including glucagon and insulin.

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