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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Insulin

Canadian physiologist Frederick Banting was inspired to research the treatment of diabetes while preparing a class lecture on the pancreas, when he read a paper about the relationship between the pancreas and diabetes. He knew it was an accepted fact that diabetes was caused by a disorder of the pancreas that kept the body from making use of sugar, so Banting decided that if he tied off the pancreatic duct he could isolate the hormone causing the disorder.

In the spring of 1921, Banting traveled to Toronto to explain his idea to J.J.R. Macleod, who was Professor of Physiology at the University of Toronto, and asked Macleod if he could use his lab space to test it out.  Macleod agreed and lent him Charles Best, a research student at the university.

After several months of experiments on laboratory dogs, Banting and Best prepared a solution containing insulin which they injected into the veins of a diabetic dog, and within a few hours the dog was walking again. Soon they were able to purify these extracts sufficiently to inject and treat diabetic patients.

Frederick Banting joined by Charles Best in office, 1924
At Toronto's General Hospital, 14-year-old diabetic Leonard Thompson became on January 11, 1922 the first person to be treated with the insulin drug, using a fetal calf pancreas extract. However, the ox extract was so impure, Thompson suffered a severe allergic reaction, and further injections were canceled. Biochemist James Collip, who was helping Banting and Best, worked day and night to improve the extract. A second dose was injected twelve days later, which was completely successful in completely eliminating the glycosuria sign of diabetes.

In 1923 Banting was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine with his mentor John MacLeod, the Professor of Physiology at Toronto University. Banting, annoyed that Best was not mentioned, shared half of his prize with Best.

Banting, who received the Nobel Prize at age 32, remains the youngest Nobel laureate in the area of Physiology/Medicine.

Insulin
The word “Insulin” comes from the Latin for island, as it is produced by clusters of cells in the pancreas known as the Islets of Langerhans.

The crystal structure of insulin in the solid state was determined by Dorothy Hodgkin; she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964.

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