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The endocrine system helps regulate and maintain various body functions by synthesizing (making) and releasing hormones, chemical messengers. The endocrine system is composed of glands that release their hormones directly into the bloodstream for chemical signaling of target cells. Endocrine glands do not have a duct system and are called ductless glands. These glands release hormones directly into the blood or lymph. These glands include the pituitary gland, the pineal gland, the hypothalamus, the thyroid gland, the parathyroid glands, the thymus, the adrenal glands, the ovaries (in females) or testes (in males), and the pancreas. Endocrine glands have a rich blood supply through which hormones travel to reach their target organs. Hormones alter the metabolism of target organs by increasing or decreasing their activity. One of the major tasks of hormones is to coordinate the activities of organ systems. Typically, the body synthesizes hormones in one part and transports it to another through the bloodstream or lymph. These changes in activity are strictly balanced to maintain homeostasis (a stable internal environment).

What the Endocrine System Does

Once a hormone is secreted, it travels from the endocrine gland through the bloodstream to target cells designed to receive its message. Along the way to the target cells, special proteins bind to some of the hormones. The special proteins act as carriers that control the amount of hormone that is available to interact with and affect the target cells. Also, the target cells have receptors that latch only onto specific hormones, and each hormone has its own receptor, so that each hormone will communicate only with specific target cells that possess receptors for that hormone. When the hormone reaches its target cell, it locks onto the cell's specific receptors and these hormone-receptor combinations transmit chemical instructions to the inner workings of the cell. When hormone levels reach a certain normal or necessary amount, further secretion is controlled by important body mechanisms to maintain that level of hormone in the blood. This regulation of hormone secretion may involve the hormone itself or another substance in the blood related to the hormone.

Pineal Anterior Pituitary Posterior Pituitary Thyroid Parathyroid

Melatonin GH (growth hormone) ADH (antidiuretic hormone) T3/T4 Calcitonin PTH (parathyroid hormone)

Circadian Rhythm Cell Growth Water Balance Metabolism Lowers Blood Calcium Raises Blood Calcium

The hypothalamus, a collection of specialized cells that is located in the lower central part of the brain, is the primary link between the endocrine and nervous systems. Nerve cells in the hypothalamus control the pituitary gland by producing chemicals that either stimulate or suppress hormone secretions from the pituitary. It is no bigger than a pea, the pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain just beneath the hypothalamus, is considered the most important part of the endocrine system. It's often called the " master gland" because it makes hormones that control several other endocrine glands. The production and secretion of pituitary hormones can be influenced by factors such as emotions and seasonal changes. To accomplish this, the hypothalamus relays information sensed by the brain (such as environmental temperature, light exposure patterns, and feelings) to the pituitary. The tiny pituitary gland is divided into two parts: the anterior lobe and the posterior lobe. The pituitary also secretes endorphins, chemicals that act on the nervous system to reduce sensitivity to pain. In addition, the pituitary secretes hormones that signal the ovaries and testes to make sex hormones. The pituitary gland also controls ovulation and the menstrual cycle in women. The anterior lobe regulates the activity of the thyroid, adrenals, and reproductive glands. The Adenohypophysis (anterior lobe) produces and secretes seven hormones in response to commands from the hypothalamus: 1. Thyroid Stimulating hormone (TSH) / thyrotropin - stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones 2. Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) - stimulates the adrenal gland to produce certain hormones 3. Follicle Stimulating hormone (FSH) - regulates the development, growth, pubertal maturation, and reproductive processes of the body. 4. Luteinizing hormone (LH) /lutropin - is essential for reproduction. 5. Prolactin (PRL) - activates milk production in women who are breastfeeding, unusually high amounts are suspected to be responsible for impotence and loss of libido 6. Growth hormone (GH) - stimulates the growth of bone and other body tissues and plays a role in the body's handling of nutrients and minerals 7. Melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) / intermedins - stimulate the production and release of melanin (melanogenesis) by melanocytes in skin and hair. Dopamine - functions in several parts of the body as a local chemical messenger. Growth Hormone-inhibiting Hormone (GHIH) / Somatostatin Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), / luliberin- is a trophic peptide hormone responsible for the release of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) from the anterior pituitary. Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) / corticotrophin - is involved in the stress response. Oxytocin - plays roles in sexual reproduction, in particular during and after childbirth Arginine vasopressin (AVP) / Vasopressin - two primary functions are to retain water in the body and to constrict blood vessels. The posterior lobe of the pituitary releases antidiuretic hormone, which helps control body water balance through its effect on the kidneys and urine output; and oxytocin, which triggers the contractions of the uterus that occur during labor. The thyroid, located in the front part of the lower neck, is shaped like a bow tie or butterfly and produces the thyroid hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine. Thyroid hormone affects body growth, metabolic rates, and the development of bones and skeletal muscle. These hormones control the rate at which cells burn fuels from food to produce energy. As the level of thyroid hormones increases in the bloodstream, so does the speed at which chemical reactions occur in the body. Thyroid hormone also increases the sensitivity of the cardiovascular system to sympathetic nervous activity. This effect helps maintain a normal heart rate. The thyroid gland produces three hormones: o Thyroxine (T4) - stimulate the consumption of oxygen and thus the metabolism of all cells and tissues in the body. o Triiodothyronine (T3) - regulate tissue metabolism o Calcitonin - lowers blood calcium levels. The production and release of thyroid hormones is controlled by thyrotropin, which is secreted by the pituitary gland. Attached to the thyroid are four tiny glands that function together called the parathyroids. They release parathyroid hormone, which regulates the level of calcium in the blood with the help of calcitonin, which is produced in the thyroid. The pineal body, also called the pineal gland, is located in the middle of the brain. It secretes melatonin, a hormone that may help regulate the wake-sleep cycle.

Alimentary system

gastric gland P/D1 cells(fundus (upper left)lining of stomach)

Gastrin (Primarily) Ghrelin Neuropeptide Y

Secretion of gastric acid by parietal cells Stimulate appetite, secretion of growth hormone from anterior pituitary gland Increased food intake and decreased physical activity. It can be associated with obesity. Suppress release of gastrin, cholecystokinin (CCK), secretin, motilin, vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), gastric inhibitory polypeptide (GIP), enteroglucagon. Lowers rate of gastric emptying. Reduces smooth muscle contractions and blood flow within the intestine. stimulate gastric acid secretion Smooth muscle contraction of stomach

Delta cells


ECL cells/gastric gland X cells

Histamine Endothelin

S Cells


Secretion of bicarbonate from liver, pancreas and duodenal Brunner's glands; Enhances effects of cholecystokinin, stops production of gastric juice Release of digestive enzymes from pancreas Release of bile from gallbladder, hunger suppressant

I Cells


LIVER GLAND Hepatocytes HORMONE Insulin-like growth factor (or somatomedin)


insulin-like effects regulate cell growth and development Vasoconstriction; release of aldosterone from adrenal cortex dipsogen. stimulates megakaryocytes to produce platelets inhibits intestinal iron absorption and iron release by macrophages

Hepatocytes Hepatocytes Hepatocytes

Angiotensinogen and angiotensin Thrombopoietin Hepcidin

Pancreas Adrenal Cortex Adrenal Medulla

Insulin Glucagon Glucocorticoids Epinephrine

Lowers blood sugar Raises blood sugar Anti-inflammatory Fight or flight

The pancreas produces (in addition to others) two important hormones, insulin and glucagon. They work together to maintain a steady level of glucose, or sugar, in the blood and to keep the body supplied with fuel to produce and maintain stores of energy. The body has two triangular adrenal glands, one on top of each kidney. The adrenal glands have two parts, each of which produces a set of hormones and has a different function. 1. The outer part, the adrenal cortex, produces hormones called corticosteroids that influence or regulate salt and water balance in the body, the body's response to stress, metabolism, the immune system, and sexual development and function. 2. The inner part, the adrenal medulla, produces catecholamines, such as epinephrine. Also called adrenaline, epinephrine increases blood pressure and heart rate when the body experiences stress. (Epinephrine injections are often used to counteract a severe allergic reaction.)

KIDNEY GLAND Juxtaglomerular cells Extraglomerular mesangial cells HORMONE Renin (Primarily) Erythropoietin (EPO) Calcitriol (1,25dihydroxyvitamin D3) Thrombopoietin ADRENAL GLANDS (Adrenal Cortex) GLAND/SOURCE zona fasciculata and zona reticularis cells ACTION
Activates the renin-angiotensin system by producing angiotensin I of angiotensinogen Stimulate erythrocyte production Active form of vitamin D3; Increase absorption of calcium and phosphate from gastrointestinal tract and kidneys inhibit release of PTH stimulates megakaryocytes to produce platelets

HORMONE Glucocorticoids (chiefly cortisol)

Stimulates gluconeogenesis; Stimulates fat breakdown in adipose tissue; Inhibits protein synthesis; Inhibits glucose uptake in muscle and adipose tissue; Inhibits immunological responses (immunosuppressive); Inhibits inflammatory responses (anti-inflammatory) Stimulates active sodium reabsorption in kidneys; Stimulates passive water reabsorption in kidneys, thus increasing blood volume and blood pressure; Stimulates potassium and H+ secretion into nephron of kidney and subsequent excretion In males: Relatively small effect compared to androgens from testes In females: masculinizing effects

Zona glomerulosa cells

Mineralocorticoids (chiefly aldosterone)

Zona fasciculata and Zona reticularis cells

Androgens (including DHEA and testosterone)

ADRENAL GLANDS (Adrenal Medulla) GLAND Chromaffin cells

HORMONE Adrenaline (epinephrine) (Primarily)

Fight-or-flight response: Boost the supply of oxygen and glucose to the brain and muscles (by increasing heart rate and stroke volume, vasodilation, increasing catalysis of glycogen in liver, breakdown of lipids in fat cells); Dilate the pupils; Suppress non-emergency bodily processes (e.g., digestion) Fight-or-flight response: Boost the supply of oxygen and glucose to the brain and muscles (by increasing heart rate and stroke volume, vasoconstriction and increased blood pressure, breakdown of lipids in fat cells); Increase skeletal muscle readiness. Increase heart rate and blood pressure Regulate pain

Chromaffin cells

Noradrenaline (norepinephrine)

Chromaffin cells Chromaffin cells

Dopamine Enkephalin


Ovary Theca cells Granulosa cells


Female sex characteristics: Support pregnancy: Convert endometrium to secretory stage Make cervical mucus thick and impenetrable to sperm. Inhibit immune response, e.g., towards the human embryo Decrease uterine smooth muscle contractility Inhibit lactation Inhibit onset of labor. Other: Raise epidermal growth factor-1 levels Increase core temperature during ovulation Reduce spasm and relax smooth muscle (widen bronchi and regulate mucus) Anti-inflammatory: Reduce gall-bladder activity Normalize blood clotting and vascular tone, zinc and copper levels, cell oxygen levels, and use of fat stores for energy Assist in thyroid function and bone growth by osteoblasts

Androstenedione Estrogens (mainly estradiol

Increase resilience in bone, teeth, gums, joint, tendon, ligament, and skin Promote healing by regulating collagen Provide nerve function and healing by regulating myelin Prevent endometrial cancer by regulating effects of estrogen Substrate for estrogen

Inhibin Testes Testosterone Androgens (chiefly testosterone) Estradiol

Structural: Promote formation of female secondary sex characteristics Accelerate height growth Accelerate metabolism (burn fat) Reduce muscle mass Stimulate endometrial growth Increase uterine growth Maintain blood vessels and skin Reduce bone resorption, increase bone formation Protein synthesis: Increase hepatic production of binding proteins Coagulation: Increase circulating level of factors 2, 7, 9, 10, antithrombin III, plasminogen Increase platelet adhesiveness Increase HDL, triglyceride, height growth Decrease LDL, fat deposition Fluid balance: Regulate salt (sodium) and water retention Increase growth hormone Increase cortisol, SHBG Gastrointestinal tract: Reduce bowel motility Increase cholesterol in bile Melanin: Increase pheomelanin, reduce eumelanin Cancer: Support hormone-sensitive breast cancers (Suppression of production in the body of estrogen is a treatment for these cancers.) Lung function: Promote lung function by supporting alveoli. Inhibit production of FSH from anterior pituitary Male sex characteristics: Anabolic: growth of muscle mass and strength, increased bone density, growth and strength, Virilizing: maturation of sex organs, formation of scrotum, deepening of voice, growth of beard and axillary hair. Inhibit production of FSH (Follicle-stimulating hormone)


PLACENTA (when pregnant) GLAND

HORMONE Progesterone (Primarily)

Support pregnancy: Inhibit immune response, towards the fetus. Decrease uterine smooth muscle contractility Inhibit lactation Inhibit onset of labor. Support fetal production of adrenal mineralo- and glucosteroids. Other effects on mother similar to ovarian follicle-progesterone


Estrogens (mainly Estriol) (Also Primarily) Human chorionic gonadotropin

Effects on mother similar to ovarian follicle estrogen

Promote maintenance of corpus luteum during beginning of pregnancy; Inhibit immune response, towards the human embryo.; Increase production of insulin and IGF-1; Increase insulin resistance and carbohydrate intolerance Increase production of insulin and IGF-1; Increase insulin resistance and carbohydrate intolerance Suppress FSH

Syncytiotrophoblast Fetal Trophoblasts Uterus (when pregnant) GLAND Decidual cells

Human placental lactogen Inhibin

HORMONE Prolactin

milk production in mammary glands

The gonads are the main source of sex hormones. In males, they are located in the scrotum. Male gonads, or testes, secrete hormones called androgens, the most important of which is testosterone. These hormones regulate body changes associated with sexual development, including enlargement of the penis, the growth spurt that occurs during puberty, and the appearance of other male secondary sex characteristics such as deepening of the voice, growth of facial and pubic hair, and the increase in muscle growth and strength. Testosterone is required for sperm formation during spermatogenesis, the development of male external genitalia, and secondary sexual traits such as beard growth, chest hair, and enlarged thyroid cartilage. Working with hormones from the pituitary gland, testosterone also supports the production of sperm by the testes. The testes produce the hormone testosterone. The female gonads, the ovaries, are located in the pelvis. They produce eggs and secrete the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is involved in the development of female sexual features such as breast growth, the accumulation of body fat around the hips and thighs, and the growth spurt that occurs during puberty. Both estrogen and progesterone are also involved in pregnancy and the regulation of the menstrual cycle. . Estrogen is required to form the ovum (egg) during oogenesis and prepares the uterus for implanting a fertilized egg. Progesterone prepares the breasts for lactation during pregnancy and works with estrogen to regulate the menstrual cycle.

Problems With the Endocrine System

Too much or too little of any hormone can be harmful to the body. For example, if the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone, a child may grow excessively tall. If it produces too little, a child may be abnormally short. Controlling the production of or replacing specific hormones can treat many endocrine disorders in children and adolescents, some of which include: Adrenal insufficiency. This condition is characterized by decreased function of the adrenal cortex and the consequent underproduction of adrenal corticosteroid hormones. The symptoms of adrenal insufficiency may include weakness, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, dehydration, and skin changes. Doctors treat adrenal insufficiency by giving replacement corticosteroid hormones. Cushing syndrome. Excessive amounts of glucocorticoid hormones in the body can lead to Cushing syndrome. In children, it most often results when a child takes large doses of synthetic corticosteroid drugs (such as prednisone) to treat autoimmune diseases such as lupus. If the condition is due to a tumor in the pituitary gland that produces excessive amounts of corticotropin and stimulates the adrenals to overproduce corticosteroids, it's known as Cushing disease. Symptoms may take years to develop and include obesity, growth failure, muscle weakness, easy bruising of the skin, acne, high blood pressure, and psychological changes. Depending on the specific cause, doctors may treat this condition with surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or drugs that block the production of hormones.

Type 1 diabetes. When the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin, type 1 diabetes (previously known as juvenile diabetes) occurs. Symptoms include excessive thirst, hunger, urination, and weight loss. In children and teens, the condition is usually an autoimmune disorder in which specific immune system cells and antibodies produced by the immune system attack and destroy the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin. Type 1 diabetes can cause long-term complications, including kidney problems, nerve damage, blindness, and early coronary heart disease and stroke. To control their blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing diabetes complications, kids need regular injections of insulin. Type 2 diabetes. Unlike type 1 diabetes, in which the body can't produce normal amounts of insulin, in type 2 diabetes the body is unable to respond to insulin normally. Children and teens with this condition tend to be overweight, and it is believed that excess body fat plays a role in the insulin resistance that characterizes the disease. In fact, the rising prevalence of this type of diabetes in kids has paralleled the dramatically increasing rates of obesity among kids in recent years. The symptoms and possible complications of type 2 diabetes are basically the same as those of type 1. Some kids and teens can control their blood sugar level with dietary changes, exercise, and oral medications, but many will need to take insulin injections like those with type 1 diabetes. Growth hormone problems. Too much growth hormone in children who are still growing will make their bones and other body parts grow excessively, resulting in gigantism. This rare condition is usually caused by a pituitary tumor and can be treated by removing the tumor. In contrast, when the pituitary gland fails to produce adequate amounts of growth hormone, a child's growth in height is impaired. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) may also occur in kids with growth hormone deficiency, particularly in infants and young children with the condition. Hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the levels of thyroid hormones in the blood are excessively high. Symptoms may include weight loss, nervousness, tremors, excessive sweating, increased heart rate and blood pressure, protruding eyes, and a swelling in the neck from an enlarged thyroid gland (goiter). In kids this is usually caused by Graves' disease, an autoimmune disorder in which specific antibodies produced by the immune system stimulate the thyroid gland to become overactive. The disease may be controlled with medications or by removal or destruction of the thyroid gland through surgery or radiation treatments. Hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is when the levels of thyroid hormones in the blood are abnormally low. Thyroid hormone deficiency slows body processes and may lead to fatigue, a slow heart rate, dry skin, weight gain, constipation, and, in kids, slowing of growth and delayed puberty. Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which results from an autoimmune process that damages the thyroid and blocks thyroid hormone production, is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in kids. Infants can also be born with an absent or underdeveloped thyroid gland, resulting in hypothyroidism. It can be treated with oral thyroid hormone replacement.

How to Take Care of the Endocrine System

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Avoid steroids. Steroids interfere with natural hormone production, such as males producing testosterone. Steroid use can cause women to grow facial hair, men to have shrunken testicles and behavioral problems such as aggression and unwarranted anger. Get plenty of rest. Sleep is one of the best things you can do to stay healthy. Our bodies need at least eight hours of sleep every night in order to function properly. While the body is resting, the endocrine system secretes hormones and repairs different parts of the body. Eat a healthy diet. Foods rich in vitamins, iodine, and calcium help to keep hormones at proper levels. Overeating and consuming foods high in fat inhibit functioning of the endocrine glands. Engage in a regular exercise program. People who lead a sedentary life are prone to obesity as inactivity and overeating usually go hand in hand. Obesity retards the influence of insulin and leads to Adult Onset Diabetes. Relax and slow down. Stress causes illness and disease. Quite often a disorder is the result of long term stress. By the time the patient seeks treatment, the body has already been compromised. Take care of yourself by getting plenty of rest, drinking eight glasses of water daily, exercising, and eating a healthy diet.