What is cholecystokinin?

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t think about digestive hormones too often. In fact, I bet the word “cholecystokinin” (CCK) has never even crossed your mind. But fear not my dear reader, for today we shall dive into the fascinating world of CCK and discover what it is, how it works and why on Earth anyone ever bothered to study it in the first place.

The basics: What is cholecystokinin?

Cholecystokinin might sound like a spell straight out of Harry Potter book (expecto digestionus!), but in reality, CCK is one of many hormones that play a crucial role in our digestive system. It’s produced by cells located mostly in our small intestine and parts of our brain (because why wouldn’t our brain be involved in digestion?).

The main function of CCK is to stimulate the release of digestive enzymes from the pancreas and bile from the gallbladder – two organs essential for digesting fat properly. This means that without CCK doing its job, we would likely end up feeling bloated and uncomfortable after eating any fatty foods.

A brief history lesson

Now before we go any further into this hormone rabbit hole, let’s take a quick detour back in time to learn how scientists discovered cholecystokinin.

In 1928, two researchers named Edith Bülbring and Bayliss Starling were studying dogs fed with pure protein. They noticed that when they added acid or bile salts to the mixtures being studied there was an increase in pancreatic secretion. Soon enough they realized that something else was causing this effect since mixing bicarbonate solution did not cause such effects.This led them to believe certain factor(s) made by intestinal mucosa could cause these responses via blood circulation which later turned out as cholycytokinins themselves.

Two decades later, in the 1950s, another researcher named Vincent du Vigneaud would isolate and synthesize CCK for the first time. Due to his discovery work on this hormone won him Nobel Prize.

How does cholecystokinin work?

So we know what CCK is and why it’s important, but how exactly does it do its job? It all starts when food enters our small intestine. Hormones called “duodenal cells” (not to be confused with Dandy-Walker syndrome which causes malformation of brain as well) release a substance that triggers the release of CCK.

Once CCK is released into our bloodstream, it travels through our body until it reaches two main targets – the pancreas and gallbladder. Upon reaching these organs, CCK binds to specific receptors that cause them to contract and secrete digestive enzymes/bile respectively (how considerate!). As a result, fats are broken down into smaller molecules that can be more easily absorbed by our bodies.

How much cholecystokinin do we produce?

While everyone produces different amounts of cholecystokinin based on various factors like genetic coding or general health, researchers suggest that levels tend to peak about thirty minutes after eating foods high in fat or protein.

It’s also believed that diets rich in fiber may actually help promote the production of CCK since fiber stimulates physical contractions along your gastrointestinal tract promoting bile present from liver which eventually facilitate secretion under stimulation from Cholecystokinins .

Studies show women generally secrete greater amounts than men; though there hasn’t been any conclusive reasons explained yet behind such differences between sexes!

What happens if you have too little cholecystokinin?

While most people will never experience issues related directly due to lack of Cholecystokiin secretion ,there are few conditions/symptoms where lower hormonal productions might contribute-

  • Bile reflux
  • Gallbladder disease- choledocholithiasis , jaundice, cirrhosis etc.
  • Malabsorption

Fun facts about cholecystokinin

Before we wrap things up here, let’s take a look at some fun and fascinating facts about CCK:

  1. In addition to its role in digestion, some studies suggest that CCK may also play a role in regulating appetite and mood (hope you’re feeling good after lunch).
  2. Due to the way it works on the pancreas and gallbladder,” duodenal factors” were originally believed as two different hormones until Patrick Pullinger an Australian physiologist was able demonstrate chaeracteristics of same chemicals present in both organs .
  3. While typically released during meals that are high in fat or protein but this response varies between individuals depending upon body chemistry/genetic makeup.
  4. As mentioned earlier since greater contraction followed by relaxation is required for release of Bile from Gall Bladder under presence of Cholecystokinins influence; certain medical procedures like Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio Pancreatography (ERCP) aimed at assessing/bypassing obstructed ducts; can have serious adverse reactions.

So there you have it folks – everything you never knew you needed to know about cholecystokinin! Who knows what other amazing hormonal wonders our bodies hold within? Next week: Transcortin..Stay tuned folks!

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