By R. L. David Jolly
The human body is one of the most complicated things in the entire universe. The complexity of all of the individual parts down to the molecular level is far more intricate than most sophisticated computers or machines created by man.
The majority of our body’s functions are controlled by the brain, which is the size of a large grapefruit and weighs about 3 pounds. The brain can process over 70,000 thoughts per day.
As miraculous as the brain is, one tiny portion of it has its own unique qualities and marvels. About the size of a green pea, the pituitary gland may be the most important small structure in the entire human body, which is why it’s called the ‘master gland.’
The pituitary gland is actually a small protrusion of the hypothalamus. It is located near the base of the brain but sits in its own little bone encased home behind the eyes.
This powerful little gland consists of two sections, the anterior and posterior pituitary. The anterior pituitary, properly known as the adenopophysis, is larger and releases a number of different hormones. The posterior pituitary, neurohypophysis, is smaller. Instead of producing its own hormones, it acts as a hormone storage system for the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus produces hormones that control the pituitary and many other endocrine glands and body functions.
The anterior pituitary’s primary functions include:
- Secretion of Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH). ACTH is produced by corticotropes in the anterior pituitary in response to corticotropin-releasing hormone (CTH) released by the hypothalamus, often in times of stress. ACTH causes the adrenal cortex to produce cortisol. Cortisol plays an important part in our immune functions and anti-inflammatory responses; metabolism; regulation of blood sugars; governing blood pressure; and stress management.
- Secretion of Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH). TSH, also known as thyrotropin, is secreted by the thyrotrope cells in the anterior pituitary gland. Thyrotropin causes the thyroid to produce its own hormones including thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). In turn, they are involved in controlling our body’s metabolic rate.
- Secretion of Growth Hormone (GH). GH, also known as somatotropin, is produced by the somatotropic cells located in the anterior pituitary. It is a peptide hormone that plays a key role in growth and regeneration of tissues.
- Secretion of Prolactin. Also known as lactotrope, it is produced in response to the release of thyrotropin-releasing factor from the hypothalamus. When this happens, the secretion of prolactin stimulates lactation. Without this vital hormone, a new mom is unable to produce the breast milk her child needs.
- Secretion of Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH). FSH is secreted by the gonadotrophs found in the anterior pituitary. It plays an important role in our sexual development. In men, regulates sperm production and in women it regulates the maturing process of eggs in the ovaries.
- Secretion of Luteinizing Hormone (LH). LH, also known as lutropin. It is also produced in the gonadotrophs found in the anterior pituitary. When LH is released in women, it causes the ovulation and the development of the corpus luteum. LH in men is also known as interstitial cell-stimulating hormone. The release of LH in men signals the Leydig cells to produce testosterone, which in turn initiates the production of sperm.
The posterior pituitary’s primary functions include:
- Oxytocin. Oxytocin is produced by the hypothalamus and stored in the posterior pituitary. When released from the posterior pituitary, oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, plays an important role in intercourse, along with initiating uterine contractions during and after childbirth. Oxytocin also stimulates the breast to release milk. Sometimes a nursing mom can hear the sound of a baby sucking and begin to ‘let down’ or leak milk. This is due to the presence of oxytocin. It has also been known to affect emotions such increasing trust, empathy and reducing anxiety and stress.
- Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH). ADH, also known as vasopressin, is released by the hypothalamus and stored in the posterior pituitary when it senses that there is too little water in the blood. When it reaches the kidneys, they begin to re-absorb more water from the urine, making the urine more concentrated. Not only does this help to stabilize the water level in the blood, but it also helps to maintain blood pressure.
These are only some of the major functions of the pea-sized pituitary gland. If I were to list them all, this article would become a voluminous book. The bottom line is that it is an extremely important and vital little gland. In fact, it’s so important that if you were to completely lose your pituitary gland, it would be certain death. Nowadays, it takes intensive care and the supplementing of a number of hormones, but a person can live without the pituitary gland, although it can be a difficult life.
When you realize just how many different types of secretory cells it contains and the many different hormones it produces and stores, you would expect it to be many times larger than it is. It is truly a marvelous example of just how God designed our bodies.
However, today, we are the product of 6,000 years of mutations and diseases, all results of the Curse from Genesis 3. The effects of the Curse affect the pituitary glands of too many people today and the results can be devastating.
About two and half years ago, it was discovered that my oldest daughter had a tumor on her pituitary gland. Actually, the first doctor diagnosed it as a cyst, but a specialist said it was a tumor. Eight days before Christmas of 2011, she underwent surgery to remove the tumor.
Because of where it is located, they do the surgery through the nose, by cutting a circular hole in the bone over the pituitary gland. When they lifted the bone circle off of hers, the pressure was so great that it literally exploded. It turned out that she had a tumor inside a cyst, a condition the surgeon said was extremely rare. They did their best to remove the tumor and cyst and clean as much of the fluid that was released in the initial eruption as they could.
When the surgery was complete, they glued the bone plug back over the hole and closed up the opening with a piece of fatty tissue from her abdomen. She was not allowed to blow her nose, sneeze, cough, bend over or make any sudden moves for several weeks for fear of loosening the bone plug.
She was placed in the care of an endocrinologist who took regular blood samples to determine which hormones she needed supplementing. Sometimes the pituitary kicks in right away and sometimes it takes a while before it wakes up. In her case, it took almost a year before her pituitary finally woke up and started functioning.
The optic nerves from the eyes to the brain also run through the pituitary cavity. Pituitary tumors can put pressure on the optic nerves and damage them, causing a loss of part or all of one’s vision. In my daughter’s case, it caused her to lose some of the vision in her left eye.
The surgeons warned her that because of how the cyst ruptured when they opened the bone, it released fluid all over the pituitary cavity, they could not guarantee that they got it all and that the tumor could return.
This past August, she suddenly began to lose more of the vision in her left eye, so the doctors did a scan. The scan was inconclusive and her vision continued to deteriorate, indicting the tumor may have grown back. We started a prayer chain, praying for her and her husband. In January, another MRI was done and the presence of the tumor was confirmed. However, when the specialist examined the scans from August and the latest one, he said the tumor had shrunk. This is not unheard of with pituitary tumors, but it is quite rare for them to shrink on their own. We know why they shrunk and ask for continued prayer that the tumor would completely disappear.
The loss of vision in her left eye is due to an inflammation of the optic nerve, so they are treating her with medication. If the medication works, some of her lost vision may be regained – another prayer request.
The pituitary is definitely a marvel of God’s infinite wisdom and design. It is an extremely important and powerful little gland that controls so many other glands and bodily functions. When you study it, you can’t help but see the hand of God in its complex design. When I see what my daughter is going through, I see the results of 6,000 years of the Curse. Both are testaments to our Almighty and Loving God.
It is with great sadness that we have watched the events surrounding the starvation-induced death of Terry Schiavo. At no time in modern history has it been more obvious that the salt once prevalent in American society has lost its saltiness. Basic understanding of the Scriptures and deference to the authority of Gods holy Word no longer guide the decision-making processes behind modern courts and communities, or even many Christian churches and homes.
This compelling, illustrated lecture was presented by anatomist Dr. David Menton at Answers in Genesis’ Defending the Faith conference in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. You have never seen a presentation regarding the value and dignity of human life that is as powerful, and as respectful as this.
Dr. Menton explains that the question is not when does life begin, but when does a person begin? He explains from anatomical science and biology the truth of Psalm 139:13-16 where God says that He weaves us together in the womb. The DVD also illustrates the amazing and intricate design of the womb and the processes of fertilization, implantation, embryonic development and birth itself. Dr. Menton reveals that each of these is a series of miracles (irreducible complexities) that cannot be explained by chance and random processes. Even more important, as Dr. Menton explains with grace and sensitivity in the wrap-up of the video, is the second birth process of salvation explained in John 3.