By means of an exquisitely sensitive and highly specific radioimmunoassay, glucagon has been measured in the plasma of dogs and man for the first time. Its identification in the effluent plasma of the pancreas and the demonstration of alterations in its secretion induced by changes in blood glucose concentration support the view that it is a true hormone with a major role in blood glucose regulation. Glucagon secretion has been shown to rise during all forms of glucose need; this rise is suppressed by glucose refeeding. This favors the concept of glucagon as a hormone of glucose need, the function of which is to maximize hepatic glucose production when food is not available, thereby serving to maintain the flow of glucose to the brain.

The current status of efforts to identify a disorder of glucagon secretion in man is reviewed briefly.

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