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Islets of Langerhans

The endocrine (i.e. hormone-producing) cells of the pancreas are grouped in the so-called Islets of Langerhans. Discovered in 1869 by the German pathological anatomist Paul Langerhans (1847-1888), the Islets of Langerhans constitute 1-2% of the mass of the pancreas. Each islet contains a few thousand cells and is 0.2-0.5mm in diameter.

Hormones produced in the Islets of Langerhans are secreted directly into the blood flow by (at least) four different types of cells:

Additionally, Islets of Langerhans contain Islet cells can influence each other through paracrine and autocrine communication, and beta-cells are coupled electrically to beta-cells (but not to other cell-types!).

The paracrine feed-back system of the Islets of Langerhans has the following structure:

Electrical activity of pancreatic islet-cells has been studied using the patch-clamp technique, and it has turned out that the behaviour of cells in intact islets differs significantly from the behaviour of dispersed cells.