The hormone that allows body to use sugar: Insulin

Cells in our body need sugar for energy. However, sugar cannot go into most of our cells directly. Insulin helps the cells to get those sugars. After eating food, the increase in blood sugar level signals pancreas to release insulin into bloodstream.

If there is more sugar in blood, insulin stores that sugar in the form of glycogen in liver and muscles. When the sugar level is low, insulin releases it in the blood. This is how insulin balances blood sugar level.

In many cases, body does not produce enough insulin or the cells are resistant to the effects of insulin. This results in hyperglycemia -High blood sugar.

People with type 1 diabetes cannot make insulin because the beta cells (that produces insulin) in the pancreas are damaged. They need to inject insulin for proper processing of glucose. People with type 2 diabetes do not respond well to insulin. They may need insulin medications to help them better process of the sugar.

In 1889, two German researchers, Oskar Minkowski and Joseph von Mering, found that when the pancreas gland was removed from the dogs, they used to develop diabetes and died soon afterward.

In 1910, Sir Edward Albert Sharpey-Shafer found out, people with diabetes missed one chemical from the pancreas in . He called it, insula, meaning “island.

In 1921, a young surgeon named Frederick Banting and his assistant Charles Best removed insulin from a dog’s pancreas. The researchers, along with the help of colleagues J.B. Collip and John Macleod, developed a more refined and pure form of insulin, this time from the pancreases of cattle. In 1923, Banting, Macleod, Best and Collip received the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

James Bertram Collip

Canadian biochemist co-discovered insulin, James Bertram Collip was born today, 20th November, 1982.

Insulin from cattle and pigs was used for many years and saved millions of lives. But it caused allergic reactions in many patients, because it has extra proteins compared to human insulin. This problem made the extraction of insulin from cadavers. But, it didn’t go long. The first genetically engineered, synthetic “human” insulin was produced in 1978 using E. coli bacteria. Eli Lilly in 1982 started to sell the first commercially available biosynthetic human insulin under the brand name Humulin.

Insulin now comes in various forms, from ultra-rapid and ultra-long acting insulin. Grateful to the researchers, people with diabetes can now choose which formula of insulin to be taken from a variety of such.

Happy Birthday to one of the great guys behind the discovery of insulin- James Bertram Collip!

Article by Moumita Mazumdar

Write down your thoughts here: