History of Insulin

Diabetes mellitus  is the most common metabolic disease in industrialized countries Chronically elevated blood sugar , which is the result of a disturbance in the blood sugar control circuit, is characteristic of diabetes mellitus  . The reason can be a disturbed insulin secretion or production, a reduced insulin effect or both. But how long has  insulin  been used to treat diabetes, who discovered it and what is the history of insulin?

Before the discovery of insulin

Before insulin was discovered and the first people could also be treated with it, there were no treatment options for  type 1 diabetics who have an absolute insulin deficiency, apart from dietary measures. Many type 2 diabetics, who usually suffer from reduced insulin action, are also treated with insulin today, but there are alternatives for this form of diabetes.


Paul Langerhans describes island-like cell formations in the  pancreas  that were named after him (islets of Langerhans). At that time he was not aware that these were insulin-producing cells.


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


The German internist Georg Ludwig Zülzer treated a patient with a pancreas extract. The patient’s condition steadily improved until the drug was discontinued. The patient died.


Sir Frederick Grant Banting and Charles Herbert Best isolated insulin from the pancreas in John MacLeod’s laboratory.


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

Thousands of diabetics have been treated with the vital hormone since 1923. Until 1976, when the first genetically engineered insulin was developed, it was obtained from the pancreas of cattle and pigs. This animal-based insulin is now only used in cases of intolerance to human insulin.


This year, for the first time, it was possible to produce human insulin using gene technology with the help of coliform bacteria. Later, yeast fungi were also used for this purpose. In 1982, the human insulin produced in this way came onto the broader market.


Artificial insulin analogs became available. They work faster than human insulin and thus come close to the mode of action of natural insulin.

insulin today

Prescribing insulin has become commonplace today. In Germany, many millions of people suffer from the metabolic disease, and many use insulin therapy. The discovery of insulin was a crucial step in the history of diabetes.


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *