The Conductor of the
Hormone Orchestra: The Pituitary Gland
The pituitary gland is a small, pink piece of flesh
the size of a chickpea, weighing half a gram and connected
to the hypothalamus in the brain by a stalk. Thanks
to this connection, it takes orders directly from the
hypothalamus to produce the required hormones.
This pea-sized pituitary gland has such a great influence
on the human body and performs such wonderful functions
that it has been the subject of scientific enquiry for
years (and still is). This small piece of flesh has
won much respect in the scientific world. The pituitary
gland has also earned some admiration because of its
extraordinary characteristics. For example, the pituitary
gland has been called "the conductor of the endocrine
(hormone) orchestra." This gland has also been complimented
as "the master gland." At the same time, the pituitary
gland has been described as an "extraordinary biological
The pituitary gland deserves these compliments because
of the twelve different hormones it produces and the
control it exercises over the hormonal system. This
gland not only produces hormones that affect particular
tissue cells, but also organizes the work of other hormonal
glands far distant from it.
If we recall that the hormonal glands are organs that
organize the activities of the cells in the body by
giving them certain commands, the importance of the
pituitary gland becomes all the more apparent. Since
the pituitary gland does not stop at giving orders to
many cells in the body, it also gives commands to hormonal
glands that themselves transmit orders to other cells
in the body. In this sense, it functions as a director
For example, it sends a command to the thyroid gland
when conditions require the secretion of the thyroid
hormone. In the same way, it issues commands to the
adrenal glands, to the testes in the male body, and
to the ovaries and the milk glands in the female body.
An important question is:
do the pituitary gland and the cells which form it know
"the function of the adrenal gland," how "it performs
its function" and "the sign required to activate it?"
How do the cells that constitute the adrenal gland
understand and interpret the command sent to them from
the pituitary gland, and why do they obey it?
When we consider the details of the matter, we see
that the dimensions of this wonder become even wider.
A hormone produced by the pituitary gland is designed
to fit on the binding site of the targeted cell. However,
no pituitary cell has ever seen the hormonal gland to
which a message has been sent. The pituitary cells cannot
know the design of the receptors on the cells that compose
the adrenal gland. This can be compared to a person
who sets out on a journey to a house thousands of kilometers
away in another country, who finds himself in front
of a door he has never seen, yet has a key that fits
the lock at the first try. How do the cells that make
up the pituitary gland know how to make the key that
fits these locks that they have never seen?
Another important point is that there is no room for
error in this system. If the key produced cannot open
the targeted door (that is, if the hormone produced
does not perform its function in the designated area),
death is the result. For example, if the hormone produced
by the pituitary gland does not operate on the adrenal
gland, the body cannot survive.
The pituitary gland acts like an orchestra conductor
who ensures order in our bodies.
In order to understand more fully what a great wonder
this system is, we may use the following method: Stand
in front of a mirror, place your finger at the point
between your two eyes. Five to six centimeters behind
this point, right inside your skull, is the piece of
flesh, the size of a chickpea, which we call the pituitary
Then, place your other hand on your belly. Just under
this hand within the belly area are your kidneys. On
top of each kidney there is a gland the size of a walnut
weighing about 4-5 grams called the adrenal gland.
These two pieces of flesh can communicate between themselves.
They are not two conscious human beings conversing with
one another, but two groups of cells. Furthermore, this
communication system, together with the effects it produces,
is the result of an advanced technology that even human
beings do not possess.
The fact that two pieces of flesh deep within our body
communicate with and understand one another is a wonder
On the other hand, if a person has not studied biology,
he is unaware that such an organ exists in his skull
just below his brain. Most laymen do not even know that
the pituitary gland is a tiny piece of flesh below the
brain which keeps us alive by constantly sending messages
and ordering commands to the body. Moreover, this person
is totally unaware that all these things are happening.
If this gland did not perform its function, this person
would die after a short time. If you were to look for
a moment from this point of view at the person next
to you, you would be able to understand more clearly
how helpless and dependent human beings are before God,
You are the poor in need of God whereas God is
the Rich Beyond Need, the Praiseworthy.
(Qur'an, 35: 15)