A Most Dramatic Moment in Medical History
April 15, 1923: Insulin Becomes Generally Available
A huge hospital ward filled with dying children. 50 plus kids all dying from diabetic tetoacidosis, most all in a comatose state. Grieving family members in attendance awaiting the inevitable… death.
Three desperate scientists; medical scientist, doctor and Nobel laureate Frederick Banting, lab assistant Charles Best, and biochemist James Collip, race from bedside to bedside injecting the entire ward with the new purified drug, insulin.
In one of the most dramatic moments in medical history, before they reached the last dying child, the first few were awakening from their coma. The frantic families erupting in exclamations of joy.
[Image top of page is the structure of insulin. The left side is a space-filling model of the insulin monomer, believed to be biologically active. Carbon is green, hydrogen white, oxygen red, and nitrogen blue. On the right side is a ribbon diagram of the insulin hexamer, believed to be the stored form. A monomer unit is highlighted with the A chain in blue and the B chain in cyan. Yellow denotes disulfide bonds, and magenta spheres are zinc ions]
On this day in 1923 insulin becomes generally available to the general public afflicted with diabetes. Insulin is central to regulating carbohydrates and fat in the body. It causes cells to absorb glucose from the blood. When insulin fails diabetes results.
The discovery of insulin has a long and collaborative history starting with Paul Langerhans in 1869 as he studied the pancreas. Nicolae Paulescu, a Romanian professor of physiology, was able to isolate insulin. Banting and J.J.R Macleod were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their refining and purifying insulin for use in humans. The prize was shared with Best and Collip.
Diabetes affects over 8% of the US population. From Langerhans to Banting these scientists saved countless lives.