Stories tagged pancreatic juice


Pancreas: Courtesy Wikipedia Images

Where and more importantly, what is the function of the pancreas? This question has come up numerous times while working in Gunther van Hagens’ BODY WORLDS.

The pancreas lies within the abdominopelvic cavity in the J-shaped loop between the stomach and the small intestine. Abdominopelvic means just how it sounds; a region including the abdominal cavity as well as the pelvic cavity. The pancreas lies posterior to the stomach, extending laterally from the duodenum toward the spleen.

Physical Characteristics
The human pancreas is a slender, pale (pinkish gray) organ with a nodular (lumpy) consistency. A pancreas has a length of about fifteen centimeters (six inches) and weighs about eighty grams (three ounces). The organ has a head (closest to the duodenum), body and a tail (reaching towards the spleen). A thin, transparent capsule of connective tissue wraps the entire organ.

Major Ducts
The pancreas has two major ducts: the pancreatic duct and the accessory pancreatic duct. The accessory pancreatic duct is a small branch extending from the pancreatic duct. The ducts deliver digestive enzymes and buffers to the duodenum.

The pancreas has two distinct functions; one endocrine and the other exocrine. Pancreas endocrine cells secrete insulin and glucagons into the bloodstream. The exocrine cells include the acinar cells and the epithelial cells which line pancreas ducts. Together, the exocrine cells create pancreatic juice (an alkaline mixture of digestive enzymes, water and ions). These enzymes do most of the digestive work in the small intestine, breaking down food particles for absorption. Every day, the pancreas secretes about 1,000 ml (1 qt.) of pancreatic juice.

Source: Martini, F.H. (2004) Fundamentals of Anatomy and Physiology: 6th Edition.