Insulin: a century of lives saved

The discovery that revolutionized diabetes treatment

Insulin, one of the most significant medical discoveries of the 20th century, represented a breakthrough in the fight against diabetes. Before its arrival, a diagnosis of diabetes was often a death sentence, with very little hope for patients. This article traces the history of insulin, from its discovery to modern developments that continue to improve the lives of people with diabetes.

The early days of research

The story of insulin begins with the research of two German scientists, Oskar Minkowski and Joseph von Mering, who in 1889 discovered the role of the pancreas in diabetes. This discovery led to the understanding that the pancreas produced a substance, later identified as insulin, essential for regulating blood glucose levels. In 1921, Frederick Banting and Charles Best, working at the University of Toronto, successfully isolated insulin and demonstrated its life-saving effect on diabetic dogs. This milestone paved the way for the production of insulin for human use, radically transforming diabetes treatment.

Production and evolution

The collaboration between the University of Toronto and Eli Lilly and Company helped overcome the challenges related to large-scale insulin production, making it available to diabetic patients by the end of 1922. This progress marked the beginning of a new era in diabetes therapy, allowing patients to lead a nearly normal life. Over the years, research has continued to evolve, leading to the development of recombinant human insulin in the 1970s and insulin analogs, further enhancing diabetes management.

Towards the future of diabetes treatment

Today, insulin research continues to advance, with the development of ultra-fast and highly concentrated insulins promising to further improve diabetes management. Technologies like the artificial pancreas, which combine continuous glucose monitoring with insulin pumps, are becoming a reality, offering new hope for simpler and more effective diabetes control. These advancements, supported by research funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), aim to make diabetes treatment less burdensome and more personalized, enhancing the quality of life for people living with this condition.


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