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Hormones are chemical messengers that have many different functions. The effects of hormones in the body are wide-ranging and varied. Some familiar examples of hormones include insulin, which is important in the development of diabetes, and estrogen and progesterone, which are involved in the female reproductive cycle.

The endocrine system consists of a group of tissues that release hormones into the bloodstream for travel to other parts of the body.

Most endocrine tissues are glands (such as the thyroid gland) that release hormones directly into small blood vessels within and around the tissue. Several important hormones are released from tissues other than glands, such as the heart, kidney, liver, and fat cells.

Some hormones act only on a single tissue, while others have effects on virtually every cell in the body. Hormones are present in the blood in very small quantities, so laboratory tests done to measure hormone levels must be very sensitive.

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