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Cute happy dalmatian puppy dog running. Photo - Karen Arnold via - sphere.com - CC0 Public Domain

I Am Spot’s Pancreas

Dec 29, 2019
by Dr. Michael Trapani

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Well! Hello there! I suppose I should introduce myself! I am, of course, Spot’s pancreas, the most important organ in the body. 

Who do you think you’re kidding? You’re not the most important organ! I am!

Oh, REALLY! MUST you start with this again? We have been over this! I am the EXOCRINE pancreas! I am the most important organ in Spot’s body! Without me, food can’t be digested and Spot would starve!

Tell it to a diabetic, Bub! It’s me, the ENDOCRINE pancreas, who’s the most important organ in Spot’s body! I’m the organ that makes insulin. Without me, none of the glucose from the food you digest can get inside the cells! You want to talk about starvation? I’ll tell you about starvation! All the billions and billions of Spot’s cells STARVING with a sea of glucose on the outside and none on the inside! Exocrine pancreas rules!

PLEASE! There are plenty of other nutrients. Glucose, glucose, GLUCOSE! It’s all you ever talk about! Who makes the lipase that allows Spot to take in fatty acids? Who makes the amylase that breaks starch into your precious glucose? Who makes the protease enzymes that free amino acids for use in protein synthesis? Perhaps you’ve forgotten? Insulin is a protein! Without my protease, you’d have no building blocks! And no insulin! My exocrine function is central to Spot’s well-being. That’s all there is to it.

Dog lower anantomy. Image: vcahospitals.comYou’re soooo impressed with yourself, aren’t you? Well, you’re just another digestive organ, Buster! Ha! Digestive enzymes! Yeah, sure, they’re important, but it’s me, the ENDOCRINE pancreas, who makes insulin, on demand, by the way, to regulate Spot’s blood sugar every minute of the day. Yeah, that’s right. I make a HORMONE that manages the glucose metabolism of nearly every cell in Spot’s body. Yup! Right into the bloodstream, Baby! That’s where I secrete. I am the regulator of the blood sugar! The Master of glucose metabolism! You’re nothing compared to me.

Ahhh! And here we see the braggadocio of the endocrine pancreas, and every other endocrine organ, for that matter! Just because you secrete your product into the bloodstream doesn’t make you intrinsically more important than the many exocrine organs. Do you honestly think that thyroid and adrenal and pituitary and parathyroid glands - and endocrine pancreas - are somehow more important organs just because you secrete your products into the bloodstream? Hah! Without exocrine organs… Well, without salivary glands Spot can’t swallow! Without tear glands, Spot’s eyes dry out and he can’t see! Without the exocrine pancreas, Spot can’t digest his food! You endocrines have such an inflated notion of your own importance… and I’m the one who does all the work.

Oh yeah? Well… What about GLUCAGON? Not only do I make insulin, the hormone that lowers blood sugar, I also make glucagon, the hormone that RAISES blood sugar! I don’t make the sugar myself, mind you. I’m in charge of the liver. That’s right, I tell the liver when it has to break down stored glycogen and release glucose into the bloodstream. Yeah, that’s me, Spot’s bi-hormonal-take-charge kind of organ. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it. Endocrine rules!

How many times must we go through this? While you’re playing "dueling hormones" on the blood glucose tight wire, I’m digesting food. Spot’s gotta eat you know!

And I’m interacting with the small intestine and the stomach to regulate movement of food material through the intestine. Which, by the way, includes me releasing PANCREATIC PEPTIDE, my other hormone, one that I just keep to myself — FOR REGULATING YOU and keeping you from over-secreting your digestive enzymes.

Hey, wait! What?! That’s not…

That’s right! I’m the pancreas that runs the show! WOOT! WOOT! Endocrine rules!

Sigh. What-Ever.

Hey, don’t look so glum. I never said I do it all alone. It takes a village.

A village?

Yes, I mean, we’re a team, right? (Breaks into song) 

Endocrine… and Exocrine… 

Work together in perfect… Uh… Harmony

Side by side next to the Duodenum…

Oh, forget it.

Yeah, well, I’m a better singer.

Dog lower anantomy. Image: vcahospitals.com

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