Irregularly shaped patches of endocrine tissue in the pancreas. The normal human pancreas has about one million of them. Beta cells, the most common islet cells, produce insulin to regulate blood glucose. (Inadequate production of insulin is characteristic of diabetes mellitus.) Alpha cells produce an opposing hormone, glucagon, which releases glucose from the liver and fatty acids from fat tissue; these favour insulin release and inhibit glucagon secretion. Delta cells produce somatostatin, which inhibits somatotropin (a major pituitary hormone), insulin, and glucagon; its metabolic role is not clear. Small numbers of another type of cell secrete pancreatic polypeptide, which slows down nutrient absorption. Seealso endocrine system.
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