The pancreas has two very important (and very different) jobs.
One of these is to make digestive enzymes, which are released down a tube called the pancreatic duct into the small intestine. This is the opening Tanno and Iguda first see when they escaped from the stomach.The enzymes break food chemicals down into small enough molecules to be absorbed in to the bloodstream.
Tanno and Iguda looked at a slide under the microscope that showed the cells of the pancreas. This was an extremely thin slice of a pancreas (so thin it can let light through).
The pink and purple colouring is the result of using a coloured stain to make the cells stand out so we can see them. Different cells take up different amounts of the stain, so they look different.
The piece of pancreas tissue is then put on a clear piece of glass called a slide so that it can then be viewed under a microscope and a magnified image is produced.
The second job of the pancreas is carried out by a small number of cells that are grouped together into the islets of Langerhans. They make chemicals called hormones that are released directly into the bloodstream (and transported by the plasma). One of these hormones is called insulin and its job is to control the amount of glucose, or sugar, in the blood. Glucose is the main source of energy for the body’s cells. Insulin helps cells throughout the body take the glucose they need from the blood, keeping the levels healthy.
Insulin is important
Some people have too much sugar in their blood and suffer from a condition called diabetes. One cause of diabetes is when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin.
One of the treatments for people with diabetes is to inject insulin into their blood to make sure they have the correct, healthy levels of glucose.
The pancreas through history
Do some internet research: Find out how our knowledge of how the pancreas works is the result of many scientists investigations over thousands of years, starting with Herophilus in Ancient Greece who is thought to have first described the organ.
Find out how the following contributed to the ‘story’ of the pancreas
1) Rufus of Ephesus.
2) Johann Conrad Brunner.
3) Frederick Banting and Charles Best
Make a poster to explain the contributions of the scientists you have researched. You could download and print out this pdf with a picture of a pancreas in the middle to start your poster off.pancreas-poster-template
You can go to the previous PostcardsFromTheBody secret pages by clicking the places below.