Posts Tagged ‘insulin’

For love of the pancreas

// December 13th, 2010 // Comments Off on For love of the pancreas // How Things Work

Pancreas toy from Organbank on Etsy (click through)

Ahoy! Today’s Request a Post comes from Devil’s Snare, a Potter fan I’d wager.

Devil’s Snare asks “what features will a person show if his pancreas is removed?”

Ahh… woke up in a bathtub full of ice, did you? That’s embarrassing.

But hey, we’ve all been there. I’ll answer your question.

The pancreas is a noble organ with two functions. It makes hormones which regulate blood sugar (insulin, glucagon etc.), and makes lovely pancreatic juices with enzymes for breaking down food.

Damage to the pancreas is cause for distress, as enzymes which chow down food also nom the body. Type 1 diabetes starts with an autoimmune disorder that destroys the insulin producing cells found in the mystical islets of Langerhans.

Black market organ trade aside, the pancreas IS sometimes removed. Mostly it’s because of cancer or chronic pancreatitis.

A total pancreatectomy often involves taking out the spleen, the duodenum, the gall bladder and part of the stomach, then attaching the remaining stomach directly to the bowel.

Symptoms from removal are pretty clear given what the pancreas does: Without insulin producing cells you get severe diabetes. Without the enzymes, your food is poorly digested and you might get diarrhea or worse. If the spleen is also removed, you are more at risk of infections.

However it can be the only option, and the symptoms can be treated. Plenty of people out there live with diabetes. Enzyme supplements can help with the digestion department. Vaccinations or antibiotics can help control infections.

Interestingly, in 2005 a surgery taking 12 hours successfully removed a patients pancreas, collected and purified some insulin producing cells, and infused them into the patient’s liver where they started producing insulin. Full report here.

So essentially, my dear Devil’s Snare, if you think you MAY have misplaced your pancreas I suggest you would be feeling rather sick. I think you should go see a doctor.

If you love your pancreas, here’s a song by Weird Al Yankovic which just might blow your mind.

I’m always thinkin’ ’bout it
I don’t know what I’d do without it
I love, I really love
My pancreas

My spleen just doesn’t matter
Don’t really care about my bladder
But I don’t leave home without
My pancreas






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