How was the Insulin Discovered?

Diabetes was a harmful disease before the Insulin’s Discovery and it even led to death. According to doctors, the sugar was the basic reason behind diabetes and the only solution was to put diabetic patients on specific diets. But this treatment was not good enough to save diabetic patients. In the nineteenth century, the patients died of diabetes were observed and the studies showed that the pancreas was damaged. Then a medical student, Paul Langerhans found that the clusters of cells within pancreatic tissue were damaged. These cells were responsible for producing insulin. So experiments were performed on dogs. Results showed that a dog got diabetes when the pancreas is removed from its body. These studies showed that pancreas has 2 functions:

  • They are responsible for producing Digestive Juices.
  • A substance is manufactured in Pancreas that controls sugar glucose

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Basic Theory by Banting:

In October 1920, a Canadian surgeon Frederick Banting proposed the idea that the digestive juices produced by pancreas could be injurious to the secretion made by cells in the pancreas. He took his idea to his professor John Macleod. His professor thinks that this is useless but still Banting convinced him to try once. So he gave Banting a laboratory with some equipment and approximately 10 dogs. Along with this he also gave him an assistant.

Experimental Phase: 

Banting and his assistant started their experiments and removed the pancreas from a dog.

The results were:

  • Blood Sugar Level of Dog arose.
  • It drinks more water with respect to normal condition.
  • It continuously becomes weaker.

Simply, the dog got diabetes. Then they again performed different experiments on different dogs by exposing their pancreas to different conditions. They extracted a substance “Isletin” and injected this substance into the diabetic dog. The diabetic dogs become healthier and stronger. So the results were recorded and more tests were performed.

Enhanced Tests:

Banting and his assistant recognize that only dog’s pancreas is not enough for experimentation. So they started experimentation on cattle’s pancreas. They were able to produce enough Isletin that keep more than a few dogs alive. The new results were marvelous. They moved to a better laboratory with proper equipment and working environment. Now they want to try this experiment on humans by injecting this extract in human body. So the team welcomed a new member Collip and he was assigned the task to purify the insulin.

Performing Tests on Humans:  

The experiments moved on and now tests were to be performed on humans. But the question was on whom should they test? So banting and his assistant injected insulin in their own bodies. Collip continued purifying insulin and he was trying to find correct dosage for humans. A diabetic boy was chosen to be the first person on whom experiments are to be performed. The experiment was successful and the boy becomes healthier. Nobel Prize was awarded to Banting and Macleod for Discovering Insulin. And they both shared their cash prize with Best and Collip.