Doctor Frederick Banting: Discoverer of Life Saving Insulin
Until the year 1923 people who suffered from diabetes mellitus were incurable. There life could be shortened to weeks and no amount of oat cures, potato cures, or dietary constrictions could save them. There is only one known “cure” for diabetes and at the time it was yet to be found. In 1920 Doctor Frederick Banting a former University of Toronto graduate, and soldier, opens a clinic in London, Ontario. His life, at the time was falling apart, business was slow, he had very little money resulting in having to be supported by his girlfriends income, whom was considering leaving him, and money from his parents this resulted in plenty of embarrassment. However one cold fall night Banting had been lucky enough to be reading an article called “The Relation of the Islets of Langerhans to Diabetes with Special References to Cases of Pancreatic Lithiasis” by Dr. Moses Barron. The article talked about how the pancreas and islets controls the blood sugar levels in a human. After reading the article Banting had written “Diabetus. Ligate pancreatic ducts of dog. Keep dogs alive till acini degenerate leaving Islets. Try to isolate the internal secreation of these to relieve glycosuria” This vague idea sparked the discovery of what we now know as insulin.
People with diabetes can’t absorb glucose into the cells of the body. So the sugar from all foods remain in the bloodstream. The overpowering amount of sugar in the bloodstream spreads to the urine creating a sweet taste, thats why it is known as “honey-sweet diabetes”. There is so much sugar in the urine the kidneys try to dilute it resulting in frequent urination. The body then craves more liquid to replace what has been lost, but no amount of water or food can stop this process. The result of diabetes at the time was loss of all body mass, blindness, cataracts, and lower leg infections, this would all eventually lead to death. Many attempts had been made to help diabetics, one was “undernourishment” (whose idea?) which was an idea that not consuming food would lower sugar levels in the body. This worked but most would die from starvation or eventually diabetes. There seemed to be no way around the fatal disease.
May 14 1921 Banting decides to proceed with his idea of extracting liquid from the pancreas. J.J.R. MaCleod a researcher of carbohydrate metabolism at the University of Toronto provides Banting with a laboratory and ten dogs to start his research. Along side Banting was Charles Best a young graduate of physiology and biochemistry. The next few month consisted of long hours, dead dogs, and dirty test tubes. Banting learned that dog surgery was incredibly difficult as it is hard to find the pancreatic ducts, many dogs died from infection, and loss of blood. During the research Best was left to do urine, and blood tests using chemical procedures to calculate the amount of glucose in the blood and urine. Unfortunately Best had not...