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Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Understand the differences between the exocrine and endocrine components of the pancreas.
  2. Identify the different cells of the pancreas in histological images.

Browse atlas

The pancreas is a heterocrine gland that has both exocrine and endocrine functions. It is made up of a body, head and tail and is surrounded by a fine connective tissue capsule.

The pancreatic tissue is divided into many lobules. The majority, about 80-90%, is exocrine (exocrine component) and consists of acinar cells. These cells produce digestive enzymes that are secreted into the acinar tubules. These canals open into larger intralobular and interlobular ducts, which ultimately flow into the pancreatic duct to the duodenum. The enzyme-containing secretion supports the digestion of fats, proteins and carbohydrates in the small intestine.

The endocrine component of the pancreas is primarily found in the tail of the pancreas and consists of the pancreatic islets (of Langerhans). These lighter islet areas contain B cells (insulin cells) that produce insulin, A cells (glucagon cells) that produce glucagon, and D (somatostatin cells) and PP cells (pancreatic polypeptide cells) for somatostatin and pancreatic polypeptide.

Ready to review all these structures in further detail? Browse our image gallery below:

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