Beta cells

Image Caption : Beta cells of the pancreas releasing insulin: The pancreas functions as two organs in one: 98% of pancreatic cells are arranged in grapelike clusters that produce digestive enzymes that are released into the small intestine; the other 2% of pancreatic cells, located in regions called islets of Langerhans, function as an endocrine organ and produce hormones such as insulin. Our bodies (and especially our brains) run on glucose, produced by the digestion of carbohydrates. The body's ability to use glucose as its main source of energy depends on insulin. The cells within the islets of Langerhans that produce insulin are called beta cells.

Insulin-Secreting Cells

A type of pancreatic cell representing about 50-80% of the islet cells. Beta cells secrete INSULIN.

National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine

What are pancreatic islets?

Pancreatic islets, also called islets of Langerhans, are tiny clusters of cells scattered throughout the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ about the size of a hand located behind the lower part of the stomach.

Pancreatic islets contain several types of cells, including beta cells, that produce the hormone insulin. The pancreas also makes enzymes that help the body digest and use food.

Drawing of a body torso showing the location of the liver and the pancreas with an enlargement of a pancreatic islet containing beta cells.

Pancreatic islets contain several types of cells, including beta cells, that produce the hormone insulin.

When the level of blood glucose, also called blood sugar, rises after a meal, the pancreas responds by releasing insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin helps cells throughout the body absorb glucose from the bloodstream and use it for energy.

Diabetes develops when the pancreas does not make enough insulin, the body's cells do not use insulin effectively, or both. As a result, glucose builds up in the blood instead of being absorbed by cells in the body.

In type 1 diabetes, the beta cells of the pancreas no longer make insulin because the body's immune system has attacked and destroyed them. The immune system protects people from infection by identifying and destroying bacteria, viruses, and other potentially harmful foreign substances. A person who has type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily to live. Type 2 diabetes usually begins with a condition called insulin resistance, in which the body has trouble using insulin effectively. Over time, insulin production declines as well, so many people with type 2 diabetes eventually need to take insulin.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Beta cells (β cells) are a type of cell found in the pancreatic islets of the pancreas. They make up 65-80% of the cells in the islets.

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