The Small Islands of Langerhans

It took me a long time to decide what story to tell today. But then, this came up. And just so you know (no fogginess today!), we will be learning about diabetes (type 2 to be specific). But how we will build up this story (not a funny one though), I know not too. So, gentlemen and ladies, shall we begin?

A long time ago, in the year 1869, Paul Langerhans discovered a couple of small islands in the pancreas of the human body. And like you guessed already, they got named after him. Now, these islands are known for a couple of things, including it being where we get our insulin. And our focus today is this guy- insulin. 

Wait! You have heard about insulin, yeah? And if not, don’t worry. I guess that’s where we will begin our story.

My name is Boluwatife, and every time I eat food containing carbohydrates, it gets digested to its smallest unit- glucose. Now, glucose is the primary source of energy for my cells. In other words, glucose will be taken in by my cells and broken down further to create enough ‘power’ to form ATPs. And you can take these ATPs to be what my body spends every time it does ‘work.’

But, where does insulin come in, right? Well, every time the amount of glucose in my blood increases- usually after digestion, insulin gets released. And why? – It is because, without insulin, some cells in my body cannot take in glucose at all, or in some cases like the liver, enough glucose for my body to use. So, insulin is what reduces the glucose in my blood, and sends them right into my cells.

So what happens if something goes wrong with the body’s use of insulin?

Well, two things could go wrong. First, the body may somehow recognise the islands of Langerhans that produce insulin as a strange island and sends its navy ships to nuke the island. And if the attack campaign goes on successfully, and the island of insulin gets taken out, then there will be no insulin. And this war will bring about the tragedy titled, Type 1 Diabetes. 

But, the body doesn’t get fooled so easily into attacking its own. Therefore, type 1 tragedy isn’t common.  

However, there is another tragedy, the common one- the Type 2 Diabetes. And don’t get scared, no nukes are involved here. 

At some point in time, a body may accumulate so much fat that the fat starts interfering with the body’s use of insulin. We refer to this as the body being resistant to insulin. And this will lead to glucose in the blood to keep increasing while the islands keep producing more insulin.

Where I came from, there is a slang- “body no be firewood.” I still don’t know how this slang came to be, but I know it means the body can’t keep on getting overworked. And that is also the case with these islands that keep overworking to produce more insulin. They end up getting infertile, and thus, little insulin is all the body can get from these overworked islands.

When this happens, we say the body is still producing insulin, but it isn’t enough to meet the body’s demands. Hence, we now have before us a case of type 2 diabetes. And this diabetes thing can cause a couple of things, including, among others, damages to the:

  • Heart and blood vessels
  • Nerve cells
  • Kidney
  • Eye and Ear

However, recall this second tragedy started with the accumulation of fat. In other words, you can avoid it by preventing fat from building up. So, my advice to you is that you eat well, jump up and down, or any other exercise you like- the point is don’t just keep sitting down all day long. And if you are already overweight, don’t get scared, yeah? You can beat it. All you need is a constant motivation and a change to what you eat and how you work out. And we will all be fine, yeah!

Till next time then, fighting!

featured image credit: PhotoMIX Company

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