History of insulin

After lipid metabolism disorders, diabetes is the most common metabolic disease in industrialized countries. Characteristic of diabetes mellitus is a chronically elevated blood sugar, the result of a disorder in the blood sugar control loop. Reason may be a disturbed insulin secretion or production or a reduced insulin action or both.

Before the discovery of insulin

Before insulin was discovered, and the first people could be treated with it, there were no treatment options other than dietary measures for Type 1 diabetics who have an absolute insulin deficiency. Many type 2 diabetics, who usually focus on diminished insulin action, are also treated with insulin, but there are alternatives to this form of diabetes.

Insulin today

The prescription of insulin has become a matter of course today. In Germany, about 5 million people suffer from the metabolic disease, 2 million are insulin-dependent. Certainly reason enough to devote a little attention to the significant discovery of this hormone.


Paul Langerhans describes island-like cell formations in the pancreas (pancreas), which were named after (Langerhans Islets). At this time, he was not aware that these are insulin-producing cells.


Twenty years later, the two scientists, Joseph von Mering and Oskar Minkowski, discovered that the symptoms of diabetes are in a dog that has had its pancreas removed. They concluded that the pancreas is responsible for the production of a substance that plays a role in the regulation of sugar metabolism.


The German internist Georg Ludwig Zülzer treats a patient with a pancreatic extract. The patient's condition improves steadily until discontinuation of the drug. The patient dies.


Sir Frederick Grant Banting and Charles Herbert Best succeed in the isolation of insulin from the pancreas in the laboratories of John MacLeod.


In 1922 insulin was isolated and purified with the help of biochemist James Collip. For the first time, it is administered to a human. In 1923, John MacLeod and Sir Frederick Grant Banting received the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology, which they shared with Charles Herbert Best and James Collip.

Since 1923, thousands of diabetics have been treated with the vital hormone. By 1982, when the first genetically engineered insulin was developed, it was obtained from the pancreas of cattle and pigs.

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