Before the successful creation of insulin in 1922 by Canadian researchers, the best medical advice offered to diabetic patients was to starve oneself. Scientists knew something was causing the body’s blood sugar levels to go awry, but they often thought it was due to problems with the stomach or liver. Thankfully, in the 1920s, people living with diabetes weren’t being extorted for the life-saving medication. Dr. Frederick Banting and J.J.R. Macleod received a Nobel Prize for putting humanitarianism over profit.
All signs point to the pancreas
In the 19th century, scientists and researchers were getting close to solving the mystery of diabetes. The pancreas was believed to create secretions that controlled metabolism and prevented diabetes, but no one knew how to capture the substance.
Experiments involving man’s best friend and transplanting pancreatic extracts helped scientists arrive at an answer. In 1921, Frederick Banting and Charles Best found a way to refine the brown muck they were removing from the pancreas, which was keeping diabetic animals alive.
Brought back from the brink of death
Using insulin extracted from cows, scientists rushed to refine the substance so it could be administered to humans. On January 11, 1922, 14-year old Leonard Thompson was the first to receive an insulin injection. There wasn’t much harm being a human guinea pig when the alternative was wasting away in a Toronto hospital bed.
After 24 hours, Leonard’s blood sugar levels stabilized, and a young man was given a second chance at life. Diabetic patients were rushed the refined experimental insulin, which quickly revived patients from comatose states and listlessness to much delight from loved ones.
Miracle cure and medical technology
Firms like Eli Lily began working quickly to produce refined insulin for diabetics on a mass scale. Until human insulin was synthesized using E. coli, humans were receiving insulin taken from cattle and pigs.
There were some terrible allergic reactions for some patients, but it was better than previously having no options at all.