How can the smallest thing make the biggest difference?
How can something so tiny affect something so complex?
It may sound improbable, but something the size of a pea has a massive impact on us, day in, day out.
The pituitary gland is so omnipotent is it in fact, that it?s commonly known as the master gland. |And like another grand master, Yoda, what it lacks in size it makes up for in power. Its influence is immense and our bodies would be lost without it.
Weighing just 500mg, the pituitary gland sits cosily in a saddle-shaped cavity in the sphenoid bone of the skull. This bony home is called the sella turcica, as it resembles a Turkish saddle.
It has two lobes, the anterior and the posterior, and it is attached to the base of the brain. It is often referred to as the hypophysis, from the Greek meaning ?lying under?.
Its status as the master gland is solid - its secretions control organs as well as other glands.
So, what does it do?
The anterior lobe synthesises and secretes the following hormones:
Human Growth Hormone hGH - this acts on most tissues, including bone, muscle and adipose tissue
Adrenocorticotrophin ACTH - acts on adrenal cortex
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone TSH - acts on thyroid gland
Luteinising Hormone LH - acts on gonads (ovaries and testes)
Follicle Stimulating Hormone FSH - acts on gonads (ovaries and testes)
Prolactin PRL - acts on mammary glands
The posterior lobe does not manufacture. It stores hormones and secretes them when needed:
Antidiuretic Hormone ADH (Vasopressin) - this hormone helps maintain water levels for the body by promoting reabsorption of water by the kidneys
Oxytocin - causes the contraction of smooth muscle in uterine wall
Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone MSH
As you can see, the pituitary gland affects nearly every part of the body. Through its secretions of hormones, it controls metabolism, growth, sexual maturation, reproduction and blood pressure, amongst others.
By now, you might well be nodding in appreciation for this master gland. Head to our online Anatomy and Physiology e-course to find out more. Discover the immense power of the smallest gland.
"These anatomy and physiology courses are fantastic. I wish all my university lectures 10 years ago had been available via e-learning. I would have remembered so much more"
- Cordelia Peacock -
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