Photograph by MR HYDE
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas which is central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. Insulin causes cells in the liver, muscle, and fat tissue to take up glucose from the blood, storing it as glycogen in the liver and muscle. Insulin stops the use of fat as an energy source by inhibiting the release of glucagon. It is provided within the body in a constant proportion to remove excess glucose from the blood, which otherwise would be toxic.
Insulin is used medically to treat some forms of diabetes mellitus. Patients with Type 1 diabetes mellitus depend on external insulin (most commonly injected subcutaneously) for their survival because the hormone is no longer produced internally.
Leonard Thompson was the first patient to receive injections of pancreatic extract on January 11, 1922. He was 14. The young Toronto resident had been diabetic since 1919. He weighed only 65 pounds and was about to slip into a coma and die. At first he received Dr, F. Banting’s and Dr. Charles Best’s extract. Two weeks later he used the purified extract of Dr. J.B. Collip and Thompson’s symptoms began to disappear; his blood sugar returned to normal and he was brighter and stronger. Thompson lived another 13 years with the insulin. He died at the age of 27 due to diabetes complications.