Thursday, 28 July 2011

Some hairbrained experiments 90 years ago mean 20 years- and counting- of life for me today.

I’m technically a day late to mark this anniversary, but I figure the discovery is big enough that I can post this anyway.

Yesterday marked the 90th anniversary of the discovery of insulin. According to the story goes back a little further than that- back to the 19 century, when they discovered that removal of the pancreas caused diabetes (relax, they worked this out with dogs, not humans. That said, try clearing that with an ethics committee today… o.0), and the identification of the beta-cells (with a then-unknown function) of the pancreas by a medical student, Paul Langerhans. And it was really in 1920 Dr Frederick Banting got the funky idea of starving the pancreases of dogs, and trying to extract whatever the pancreas produces when it’s not ptoducing digestive juices. But it was in 1921 that he actually began his experiments, under the not-too-enthusiastic supervision of Professor John Macleod, with the assistance of Charles Best.  

And today we can say that Banting and Best discovered insulin. 90 years ago they discovered a molecule, a simple protein, that, when they returned it to diabetic dogs, reversed the symptoms of diabetes. And when they injected it into sick and dying diabetes patients, it was like literally injecting life back into them. Before this discovery, diabetes was a death sentence via starvation of the body’s cells and DKA, which equates to pickling of the body due to acidification of the blood. Insulin changed that, for millions of diabetics, myself included.

Because of insulin, I’ve had life for the past 20 years. Because of insulin, I can hope and dream. I can travel, I can work, I can study. I can love and laugh. I can eat, yes, eat. I can eat whatever I want. I can be an ordinary 20 something-year old, and choose for myself to strive for the extraordinary. Thank you Lord for Insulin. Thank you for Banting and Best, and their stubbornness to keep working on something everyone else thought was silly.

Insulin pens and glucometers and test strips and insulin pumps and such gadgets make living with diabetes easier (ok, sometimes frustrating). But ultimately, it’s the insulin that makes for living with diabetes at all.

Insulin is NOT A CURE. But it keeps me, and millions like me, physically alive.

I’m alive. I have a life to pour out in love and worship and service, and finding a way, my way, to bring life to others. Thanks to my God, and thanks to insulin.


I’m alive and kicking with type one diabetes because 90 years ago insulin was discovered. But so many others with the same disease are dying everyday, simply because of geography- where they are born-, poverty and politics make insulin unavailable for them. In many third world and developing countries, insulin, a protein discovered in 1921, and which is easily and cheaply produced with modern technology, is inaccessible to those who need it to survive. 

Please click on the “I agree” banner on the right of my blog (you have to scroll down a little) to support the International Diabetes Federation’s efforts to change this. You can find out more on the page the link takes you to.

Also, watch this video:

and check out the Life for a Child program to find out what is being done, and where they need help.

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