Monthly Archives: July 2015

Much more complicated that I first thought, the discovery

The discovery of insulin is a fairly long story involving multiple parties – and for anyone looking for a cool script for a movie – an awesome story – filled with science, personality and plenty of action.

The main role players are : Banting, Best, Mcleod and Collip. Though there are actually quite a few more players involved.

It is a story of intrigue, personality clashes and a whole lot more.

Banting is the most associated name with the discovery of insulin and certainly there were multiple stages to the research, but many of the “breakthrough” ideas came from Banting. What is interesting (as often in life), the professor discounted Bantings ideas and even discouraged him. Luckily he perservered and if history is to be believed he was quite feisty.

There was a lengthy process involving dogs pancreas tissue and then fetal calf pancreas tissue and then a whole saga on purifying the “pancreas extract”. But the breakthrough came.

Life lessons that we can all take from this is to follow your conviction and continue to persevere even in the face of more experienced, “cleverer” people putting you down. And if it does not work out first time don’t ditch the idea.


The first recipient

The index case for insulin was a master Leonard Thompson and if you look back on my blogs you will see a photo of him and his mom when he was really ill and dying. Dying in a sea of plenty. Plenty sugar but no key = insulin to get the sugar into the cells, all the cells including brain cells in order for metabolism (normal workings of a cell) to take place. Instead the body uses other “sources” of nourishment with an end product of ketones that then knocks on and causes a very acidic environment that is not compatible with life.

So here is the lad whose life was saved, first in the line of many in the family of type 1 diabetics whose fate changed in 1923.Leonard Thompson

WE have a lot to be thankful for

This is an image of the dog with diabetes that was used to “test” the first insulin in order for it to be deemed safe for human use.

In this case it worked in the dog’s favour too.

Sometimes I think our research and testing does not though.

Technology does seem to come at a price and I really think we don’t stop and think about that price.

thanks to our animals with diabetes

thanks to our animals with diabetes

Who was Banting ?

Frederick Banting was (and still is) the youngest (age 32 in 1923) Nobel Laureate. He discovered insulin in 1922 with colleagues of his. This canadian revolutionised treatment of type 1 diabetes and has essentially save millions of lives.

The first patient to receive insulin, initially called isulet – as it was taken from the islets of Langherhans in the pancreas and experimentally given to dogs with diabetes, was a young boy aged 14 and he had an allergic reaction to the first injection. The scientists went back to work to purify it further. The second injection was a success!

The young patient as well as so many others were spared what had been the fate of a type 1 until 1923.

Frederick Banting

Before Banting and Best, a sad story

pre insulin

pre insulin

In the olden days, like 1900s and in fact up until not so long ago around 70 years ago, if you had type 1 diabetes the sad reality was that you died, starved in a sea of plenty. Without insulin glucose can not get into the cells where it is needed for metabolism/function. You slowly starve and die.

Banting and Best discovered insulin and have saved all type 1 diabetics this.

We are forever indebted to their hard work in achieving a treatment.

We no longer have to have our hands tied behind our backs in terms of saving lives when it comes to type 1 diabetes and I think every doctor and every parent is eternally grateful for this blessing given to us by these two doctors.

Diabetes diabetic Ketoacidosis -a tribute “Distilled”

At medical school the precious few facts one is taught regarding diabetes is mental in the first place. But what is really scary is how they scare one regarding the dreaded DKA!!! One of the best lessons I learnt was from one of my guru’s : Prof Larry Distiller, he profoundly distilled any previous notion of fear and crystallised the information in a succinct way that has allowed me to treat DKA very easily ever since. Take a step back he said, interfering unnecessarily fast and crazily is what kills.

So now I apply the knowledge he distilled and only have the patient in for as quickly as it takes to essentially normalise all the crazy physiology and they go home happily between 24-48 hours later. Not lingering in a dreadful hospital environment for 10 days which is enough to induce psychosis in the most stable patient.

Yes DKA is scary, yes one comes very close to death, yes it can be a disaster. However if one proceeds with knowledge and applies that intellect to the problem in a team fashion it is so treatable and so rewarding to treat.

Hope on a monday

Hope for a Monday. We are advancing with technology. The next step is here and accurate and so helpful with management of type 1 diabetes. Knowing the trend of the glucose readings help pre-empt both lows and highs and in so doing bring the average sugar down, even in just one week. It helps plan activities and give peace of mind. It helps facilitate un-interrupted play.


I am ever hopeful that we will get to a place where management of sugars for type1’s is streamlined and easy. Easy for carers, patients and doctors. Most of all bringing enhanced quality of life to all.

Diabetes breaks my heart daily

Children with diabetes type 1 is a source of heartache. This is a tricky time for any family at diagnosis but perhaps more heartbreaking is the ongoing, daily, hourly, nightly task to test and maintain and attempt to prevent, fail and try again.

Hard work does not describe it. Relentless, taxing, intensely debilitating mind body and soul of a parent never mind the little one.

Siblings, family members and friends get drawn into the taxation.

So the closer we get to a faultless closed-loop the happier my little heart beats.

Nature provides cures

Nature provides cures.

Nature provides cures

This is a subject I could write about all day. Diabetes is a fascinating subject, but nature is even more fascinating.

Way back in my career whilst a student I learnt about physiology of the body and in specific about increctins and the incretineffect. IN short meaning that if you ingest a glucose molecule orally vs having it injected your gut – gastrum – reacts differently and secretes a hormone in response if ingested orally in order to help “process” the glucose molecule. This is lost in diabetics.

Take a bow the gila monster as this creature that lives in the desert has incretins in it’s saliva that was discovered (??how I don’t know) and replicated in a laboratory to create the drug byetta or exenatide that is a wonder medication for type 2 and even type 1 diabetics.

Now I don’t know if scientists go around deserts and forests testing different creatures saliva, but is it not fascinating that some of the answers lie in nature and can solve huge mysteries. Makes you think.

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