Medical Technology

The Discovery of Insulin



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The discovery of insulin by Canadians, Fredrick Banting and Charles Best of the University of Toronto in 1921-1922 was a phenomenal break through in the treatment of diabetes throughout the world. This is one of the twentieth century's most remarkable medical discovery. It was brought about through the collaborative efforts and research work done by Physician Fredrick Banting, Graduate Student Charles Best, Professor of Physiology J.J.R. Macleod and Biochemist J.B. Collip.

How Did This Discovery Impact Diabetes Mellitus or Type 2 Diabetes Then?

At the time diabetes mellitus was a devastating disease, affecting the lives of many people. To be diagnosed with diabetes mellitus meant that, due to the lack of a protein hormone produced by your pancreas, your food intake was not being properly metabolized and turned into the energy you need to feel healthy and strong. This resulted in these patients having a high sugar content in their blood and urine which is called hyperglycemia. These patients would have very restrictive diets, that was low in carbohydrates and sugar.These patients were literally starving to death and they ended up looking very weak and skinny.

After much research work by the team of Banting, Best, Macleod and Collip. Banting came up with the hypothesis that, the pancreas secreted the protein responsible for metabolism. If the pancreas was not providing this protein patients came down with diabetes. Eventually a purified extract of the pancreas was produced for clinical trials. In January 1922, Leonard Thompson, a fourteen year old patient who had had diabetes mellitus for three years and was drifting into a coma was given the pancreatic extract. The results were amazing. His blood sugar became normal and his strength and stamina improved. This extract was called insulin.

The world welcomed the news about insulin and its miraculous effects on patients with diabetes mellitus. The supply could not keep up with the demand. So, the University of Toronto's Connaught Anti-toxin Laboratories, The American Company, Eli Lily and Company of Indianapolis took on the task of producing more insulin and so did The Great Britain Medical Research Counsel.

Many diabetics lives were saved then and continues to be saved today because of the efforts of Banting, Best, Macleod and Collip. In 1923 the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine was awarded to Fredrick Banting and J.J.R. Macleod, they in turn shared the prize with their team researchers Charles Best and J.B. Collip.

Research facts about insulin.

The amino acid sequence of insulin is exactly the same in different animal species?

Insulin from cows and pigs also works in humans?

In 1996 the FDA approved a modified human insulin Humalog? Humalog acts quickly after injection.

According to 7Healthcast in a report submitted by Janet Wu. A cure for type 1 diabetes could soon be on the way. MGH researchers think they have tapped into a source that could regenerate insulin cells. That source -The Spleen. The discovery comes after observing that diabetic mice did quite well making normal insulin-producing cells after receiving an injection of donor spleen cells.

The benefits of research continue to affect people lives yesterday, today and into the future.

For more information on diabetic research visit:

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