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Islets of Langerhans

Groups of pancreatic cells which make the hormones such as insulin which control the blood sugar levels.

Specialised cells

Cells which are adapted to carry out a specific function in the body


A list of often difficult or specialised words with their definitions.


An endocrine gland which produces insulin


A hormone produced by the pancreas. It causes the liver to convert glycogen back to glucose and to release glucose into the bloodstream.

Diabetes mellitus

A disease resulting from a lack of insulin production by the pancreas or a loss of the cell response to insulin that causes a loss of control of the glucose balance of the body.


A hormone produced by the pancreas. It allows cells in the body to take in and store glucose.


A type of sugar: a mono saccharide with 6 carbon atoms (a hexose sugar).


A polymer made up of amino acids joined by peptide bonds. The amino acids present and the order in which they occur vary from one protein to another.


A chemical messenger produced by a particular gland or cells of the endocrine system. Hormones are transported throughout the body in the blood stream but they produce a response only in specific target cells

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition where the amount of glucose in the blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly.

The full name for this disorder is diabetes mellitus. The disorder is more commonly known as diabetes and this will be used throughout the resource.


Regulating blood glucose

Two hormones are involved in the regulation of glucose in the blood: insulin and glucagon. Both are produced by specialised cells in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas.

Diabetes is triggered when a person stops producing insulin or their body does not respond to it normally.

This resource follows on from the 14-16 resource on diabetes.

3-d model of insulin

These computer graphics show the structure of insulin. It is a complex protein hormone

Image courtesy of: T. Blundell & N. Campillo / Wellcome Images

How to use this site

There are a number of interactive features in this e-source:

  • A glossary of terms: any word with a glossary entry is highlighted like this. Moving the mouse over the highlighted word will show a definition of that word.
  • Quick questions: at the end of most pages or sections there is a question or set of quick questions to test your understanding.
  • Animations: most of the animations can be expanded to full screen size, ideal for showing on an interactive whiteboard. The animations will play all the way through or can be viewed one section at a time.
  • Downloads: Teachers can download individual diagrams, animations and other content from the Download Library area of the website. Terms and Conditions apply.