The Journey to Discovering Insulin and Its Modern Day Production

Decent Essays

What shall we do?”
It is a cold, snowy day in early 1918. Your parents have been conversing for the last hour. They think that you are in bed, but you are not. You have heard every word that has come from their mouths, and you are petrified with what you have learned. You have juvenile diabetes. You are going to die. A great thirst overtakes you, and you stumble up the steps. The countdown has begun!
Diabetes was coined from a Greek word that means “sieve” (Cooper 2). The symptoms justify the name–diabetes is characterized by constant urination and thirst (Cooper 2). Ancient physicians found that diabetics’ urine was sweet, and attracted insects. This gave rise to the term diabetes mellitus (Wikipedia, History), or “honey …show more content…

By starving diabetics, doctors hoped to keep them alive until the cure was found (Cooper 21). The medical community had been searching for a remedy for diabetes for hundreds of years, and most expected it to be discovered soon.
In fact, there had been incredible advances in the understanding of diabetes. In 1869, a student named Paul Langerhans discovered a new type of tissue, scattered about in the pancreas. The tissues came to be known as the Islets of Langerhans. It was theorized that they secreted a substance that regulates digestion, so in 1889, a physician named Oscar Minkowski removed the pancreas from a dog. In a matter of days, the dog became diabetic, evidenced by sugar in its urine, showing the connection between the secretions of the islets and diabetes (Wikipedia, Insulin).
Many worked to extract the mysterious substance, but all efforts failed. In 1920, a scientist by the name of Frederick Banting read an article about the pancreas. He was instantly intrigued, and devised a way to isolate the secretion. However, there was one issue; Banting didn’t have a lab, or the equipment needed to perform his experiments. In 1921, he decided to propose his idea to Professor J.R.R. Macleod of the University of Toronto. A few months later, Macleod finally agreed to his proposal, and Banting was allowed to use the University’s lab during the summer, while Macleod was away. Banting and a fellow scientist (Charles

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