Insulin: Discovered or Invented?


The history of insulin goes back to the early 1920s.  “Dr. Frederick Banting and Charles Best are known as the discoverers of insulin.  They first extracted insulin from the pancreases of dogs in 1921.”  http://www.TheHistoryOfInsulin.com and ww.Dr.CharlesBanting.com.

   Ingenuity and desperation were the necessary mothers of this invention, so to speak. As a child, I was often reminded or heard remarks pertaining to the organs of cadaver cows and pigs that were used for their extraction of pancreatic fluids – insulin – for human use. The documented history of this disease amazes me as well as answers some questions. For one, how did people survive? They didn’t. How was it detected, diagnosed? How did anyone know what to do? I learned most of this through my research preparation of the yearly Science Fair at St. Mary’s. I never won, but I am sure I brought early attention to parents and peers to this disease. That was my sole purpose. It was unpopular in the early 1970’s. People didn’t seem to care as long as there was ‘insulin.’ 

   There is one story I heard of or read about of how a person had to sharpen his/her own needles. How was that done? I have never found an answer and this question will remain in my mind. I am very curious.

   There is another story I came across some time ago that I will never forget. During World War I, a highly educated and young husband and wife escaped the harsh European regime at the time. I recall that the wife was 19 years old and a schoolteacher. Although she suspected she was sick, suffering with typical diabetes symptoms, medication was not easily available. Not until they made their own from the cadaver of a cow. To make a long story short, she survived on this concoction until arriving in America where she was able to purchase animal extracted insulin. This full yet short story can be found in an older issue of Diabetes Interview, specifically Issue 114, Volume 11, Number 1 © 2002, page 50, entitled “Eva’s Insulin,” written by Radha Mclean. It is truly awe-inspiring and worth your research and reading. Interestingly enough, through my research, I also found a substance extracted from, believe it or not, salmon that enhanced insulin that same time period. Amazing.

   I have always wondered how it was for many people many, many years ago who suffered with and through the systems and agony of diabetes, even before it was named. I can only think that their lives were short and uncomfortable. 

   As a “controlled substance, my use of insulin for over fifty years leads me to believe that I am an addict. I have had to use it, I need it, I crave it, I want it. These are the standard physical and emotional strains as with any drug, legal or illegal. Reality check!

   Present day “elders” of this disease, whom I prefer to call “champions” are those individuals whom I have only read about that have dealt with diabetes for longer than I. This fact continues to amaze and awe me; to have this disease for 50, 60, 70, and even 80 years is mind-blowing. I’m right there with them if only due to my choice to live while having a strong spirit.

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