139: Discovery of Insulin

Insulin vials (photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Insulin vials (photo via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1921, Canadian researchers determined that insulin regulates blood sugar, leading to treatment for diabetes.

Here are a few things you may not have known about the discovery.

First, scientists knew that the pancreas was responsible for regulating blood-sugar levels, but isolating exactly what substance did the regulation had proven difficult. Doctors Frederick Banting and J.J. R. Macleod experimented on dogs, and were able to produce a substance they called isletin, now known as insulin. Beginning on July 27, 1921 Banting, Macleod and their assistant, Charles Best, were able to keep a dog with no pancreas alive for several months by injecting it with the substance.

Second, In December 1921 Banting, Macleod and their team were able to speed up their process by using fetal calf pancreas, which allowed them to begin clinical testing. In a time when patients died within months of being diagnosed with diabetes, the first patient to be given insulin, 14-year-old Leonard Thompson, lived 13 more years.

Third, Banting and Macleod were awarded the 1923 Nobel Prize in medicine. The patent for insulin was sold to the University of Toronto for fifty cents.

Our question: Which of the following methods is not currently used to administer insulin? Injection, inhalation or by pill?

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