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16.09: The Pancreas

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  • In most animals the pancreas is an oblong, pinkish organ that lies in the first bend of the small intestine (see diagram 16.7). In rodents and rabbits, however, it is spread thinly through the mesentery and is sometimes difficult to see.

    Anatomy and physiology of animals The pancreas.jpg

    Diagram 16.7 - The pancreas

    Most of the pancreas acts as an exocrine gland producing digestive enzymes that are secreted into the small intestine. The endocrine part of the organ consists of small clusters of cells (called Islets of Langerhans) that secrete the hormone insulin. This hormone regulates the amount of glucose in the blood by increasing the rate at which glucose is converted to glycogen in the liver and the movement of glucose from the blood into cells.

    In diabetes mellitus the pancreas produces insufficient insulin and glucose levels in the blood can increase to a dangerous level. A major symptom of this condition is glucose in the urine.


    • Ruth Lawson (Otago Polytechnic; Dunedin, New Zealand)