On This Day: Frederick Banting Discovers Insulin by Successfully Isolating the Medicine

On This Day: Frederick Banting Discovers Insulin by Successfully Isolating the Medicine

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On this day on July 27, 1921, Canadian surgeon Frederick Banting and University of Toronto medical student Charles Best successfully isolated the hormone insulin for the first time. 

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Frederick Banting Successfully Removes Insulin From a Dog

At the University of Toronto, Banting and Best began their research on dogs. This research led them to the discovery of how to remove insulin from a dog’s pancreas. Their method involved tying the pancreatic duct to kill off the substances that would destroy insulin. 

Banting and Best discovered a “brown, thick muck” from the pancreas and after injecting a diabetic dog, they found a temporary sharp drop in its blood sugar where the dog was able to raise its head and wag its tail. Banting named the reversal “isletin” and continued to inject other diabetic dogs. The experiment was so successful that one dog suffering with severe diabetes was kept alive for 70 days before it died, when there was no more to extract. 

By December 1921, Banting’s request for a biochemist was granted and Banting’s colleague John James Rickard Macleod added biochemist James Bertram Collip to the team. He helped Banting and Best improve the inconsistent extracts, and the group made progress in trying to purify the ground-up tissue that seemed to contain the internal secretion. 

In 1922, Macleod suggested changing the name to insulin, the Latin root for islet. 

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The First Patient to Receive Insulin

The following year on January 1922, 13-year-old Canadian, Leonard Thompson, became the first human patient to receive an insulin injection dose. 

In a Toronto hospital, Thompson was suffering from the final stages of diabetes weighing only 65 pounds and slipping in and out of a diabetic coma. The first test showed a failure however, 12 days later, another and purer extraction became a success. His blood and sugar levels went to normal and his symptoms began to disappear. Thompson lived on to be 27 years old. 

The success of Banting’s work got him awarded the Noble Prize in 1923.