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What does the pancreas do? - Emma Bryce


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TEDEd Animation

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Beneath your ribs, you’ll find, among other things, the pancreas -- an organ that works a lot like a personal health coach. Emma Bryce explains how this organ controls your sugar levels and produces a special juice that releases the nutrients from your food to help keep you in the best possible shape.

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So what does this internal health coach look like? To find out, take a look at the organ and see where it lives in the body. Its prime position close to the stomach allows it to help us digest our food, with the aid of the enzymes—amylase, protease, and lipase—present in the special pancreatic juice it makes. Why is digestion important anyway, and how does the pancreas fit into this process? Read more here to find out.

But digestion isn't the pancreas' only role. Its other, sugar-balancing task makes it an endocrine organ, which is an organ that makes and secretes hormones. Two of the most important hormones the pancreas produces and sends out into the body are glucagon and insulin, which together are responsible for keeping the body's sugar levels in check. When there's a sugar imbalance, there's a risk of developing diabetes, a disorder that results when the body's sugar levels are too high. Here's how the pancreas is involved in this imbalance, and, in case you're curious, here's how Type 1 diabetes is different from Type 2. Interested in learning more about diabetes? Watch the TED-Ed Lesson: What did dogs teach humans about diabetes? Want to help out your internal health coach by educating yourself about sugar? Watch the TED-Ed Lesson: Sugar: Hiding in plain sight.

Diabetes may be a signal that our internal health coach isn't working quite as it should, but there are other disorders, like cancer, that pose a serious threat to this vital organ too. But there's hope: Check out this TED Talk from a teenager who developed a test for pancreatic cancer. There's your dose of inspiration for the day!

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Emma Bryce
  • Director Bill Keaggy
  • Artist Chris Roettger
  • Animator Eric DeFord, Sol Lee, Janghun Lee
  • Narrator Pen-Pen Chen

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