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As they are accessory organs of the digestive system, the gallbladder and pancreas have no food passing through them. They do, however, act as storage organs by storing the chemicals necessary for the chemical digestion of foods. The gallbladder stores bile produced by the liver so that there is a sufficient supply of bile on hand to digest fats at any given time. The pancreas stores the pancreatic juice produced by its own exocrine glands so that it is prepared to digest foods at all times.
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The pancreas is a 6-inch long heterocrine gland located inferior to the stomach and surrounded by the duodenum on its medial end. This organ extends laterally from the duodenum toward the left side of the abdominal cavity, where it tapers to a point.
Secretin is another hormone produced by the intestinal walls, but unlike CCK, it is produced in response to the acidity of chyme that the stomach releases into the duodenum. Secretin flows through the bloodstream to the stomach, where it inhibits the production of hydrochloric acid by parietal cells. Secretin also binds to receptors in the gallbladder and pancreas, stimulating them to secrete increased amounts of bile and pancreatic juice. Sodium bicarbonate present in pancreatic juice neutralizes the acidity of the chyme to prevent damage to the walls of the duodenum and provides a neutral pH environment for the digestion of chyme.
The pancreas is considered a heterocrine gland because it has both endocrine and exocrine gland functions. Small masses of endocrine cells known as pancreatic islets make up around 6% of the pancreas and produce the hormones insulin and glucagon to regulate glucose homeostasis in the blood stream. The other 99% of the pancreas contains exocrine cells that produce powerful enzymes that are excreted into the duodenum during digestion. These enzymes together with water and sodium bicarbonate secreted from the pancreas are known as pancreatic juice.
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Gastrin is a hormone produced by the walls of the stomach in response to the filling of the stomach with food. Food stretches the stomach walls and raises the normally acidic pH of the stomach. G cells in the gastric glands of the stomach respond to these changes by producing gastrin. G cells release gastrin into the blood where it stimulates the exocrine cells of the stomach to produce gastric juice. Gastrin also stimulates smooth muscle tissue of the gastrointestinal tract to increase the mixing and movement of food. Finally, gastrin relaxes the smooth muscles that form the pyloric sphincter, causing the pyloric sphincter to open. The opening of the pyloric sphincter allows food stored in the stomach to begin entering the duodenum for further digestion and absorption in the intestines.
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