Glucagon Pancreatic Hormone Regulates Blood Glucose
Alpha Cells in Islets of Langerhans

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How Glucagon Regulates Blood Glucose Levels

Alpha Cells Secrete Glucagon

About 25 percent of the pancreatic cells known as islets of Langerhans are called alpha cells. These alpha cells produce the hormone glucagon. They are stimulated to produce and secrete glucagon when blood glucose levels fall below a certain level - eg. between meals or during prolonged or vigorous exercise.

Glucagon stimulates liver cells to break down glycogen into glucose and release it into the bloodstream. Glucagon also causes the liver (and other cells, like muscle) to convert other materials (eg. protein) into glucose, via (eg.) gluconeogenesis.

Then, when blood glucose levels return to normal, pancreatic glucagon secretion drops.

Glucagon Injections for Hypoglycemia

A diabetic patient suffering from hypoglycemia (abnormally low blood glucose levels), who is unable to swallow, or (worse) who becomes unconscious, can have his/her blood glucose levels rapidly raised by an injection of glucagon. (Glucagon is usually sold in pre-measured doses to avoid overdosing.)

Typically, response to glucagon occurs within 5-20 minutes. Obviously it is important for the diabetic suffering from hypoglycemia to have people close at hand who know how to administer glucagon in a safe manner. F

or example, stomach upset after receiving glucagon may cause vomitting, therefore the patient's head should be kept raised above body level. Also, when revived, the diabetic should consume a small snack as soon as he/she can swallow.

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