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What Do You Know About This 99-Year-Old Hormone?

On the left, pancreas glands are examined as they arrive from the meatpacking house. On the right, the glands are run through grinders before the next step in the process, insulin extraction.

It was a mere 99 years ago…

The discovery of insulin!

You can’t live without it. And if you’re lucky, your pancreas is still cranking out enough of the insulin hormone to keep your blood sugars in an ideal range. But for many people with diabetes, taking insulin is the only way to survive.

Without insulin, we cannot get fuel from our food, as only insulin can unlock the door to the millions of cells throughout our body that depend on the resulting influx of glucose for survival.

Did you know insulin was discovered 99 years ago in 1921? That its discovery is credited to Frederick Banting and Charles Best at the University of Toronto? And that they used to grind up pig pancreases and inject huge amounts in order for it to take effect?

But wait there’s more! That World Diabetes Day which is celebrated across the globe on November 14th is in honor of Fredrick Banting, insulin’s co-discoverer?

Banting and Best sold their patent for one dollar so insulin would be readily available and inexpensive. Within two years, Eli Lilly sold over 60 million units of purified insulin. In the 1950s, longer-acting insulin was developed. In 1978, Genetech (a biotech company) figured out how to manipulate bacteria into making human insulin; later, the gene for human insulin was inserted into yeast resulting in a product very similar to human insulin (an insulin analog). With each improvement, came patents and price increases. And if you look at the prices today, some vials top $300 each and are not affordable.

It’s really fascinating to take a look back in the early days. We were granted permission to post the History of Insulin (by Diabetes Explorer) and it’s something you won’t want to miss.

Read on  in honor of World Diabetes Day and National Diabetes Month.

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