the miracle of the hormones

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 wonder."

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 of directors.

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:

How 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 gland.

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 to contemplate.

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, our Creator.

Mankind! You are the poor in need of God whereas God is the Rich Beyond Need, the Praiseworthy.
(Qur'an, 35: 15)