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Centennial Celebration of the Discovery of Insulin

It has been one hundred years since the peptide hormone, insulin, was isolated and purified for the treatment of insulin-dependent diabetes. These breakthroughs were revolutionary because, prior to 1921, a diagnosis of diabetes meant a death sentence for patients within days to a few years.  The majority of diabetic patients were children and, in the pre-insulin era, they would have struggled through therapies including different types of hyper-caloric diets or even starvation diets, often leaving the afflicted as semi-invalids.


Canadian surgeon, Frederick Banting, changed the course of medical history when he envisioned experiments to isolate a pancreatic extract associated with diabetes. Banting collaborated with John Macleod, Charles Best, and James Collip, who all made essential contributions at the University of Toronto as they sought funding and continually revised laboratory protocols to improve the quality of insulin. After Banting and Best presented their results to the American Society of Physiology that December, human clinical trials began the following year. The purity and yield of insulin were greatly increased once the pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly partnered with the university. The dramatic successes realized in patients, whose lives were completely turned around within weeks, established insulin as the global standard treatment for diabetes, and led to Banting and Macleod being awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine on October 25, 1923.