How Was Insulin Discovered?

If Otto Folin of Harvard had figured out his testing for blood glucose in 1908 rather than in 1913, the use of insulin could have been practiced years earlier.  Medical history, just like most historical data, has a lot of bitter ironies as well as happy accidents. Insulin, or something very much like it, was extracted from the pancreas by a German scientist, Georg Zuelzer  in 1908. This fluid was injected into several dogs and the unfortunate animals perished. Zuelzer, not able to know precisely why the dogs died, decided that the substance was very dangerous.

Further test would have indicated that the insulin extract had stimulated a rapid a drop in blood glucose level that the dogs suffered from extreme insulin shock. Even without the blood-sugar test, if Zuelzer injected it on diabetic instead of healthy dogs during the tests, his extract will have produced relief of symptoms rather than shock. And Zuelzer would now be among the medical heroes, not an obscure man of science whose name is nearly forgotten.

Still another tryst with immortality finished in a narrow escape when an  an insulin extract was developef by Israel S. Kleiner of New York and J. R. Murlin of Rochester, N. Y.  Similar with Zuelzer's experiment, the blood test that could have shown the importance of the work was not yet available.

Many researchers have helped in the advancement of medicine when Frederick G. Banting entered the scene.  In 1889 Minkowski and von Mering showed that the extraction of the pancreas brought on a diabetes-like disease in a dog. Opie of Johns Hopkins had described  in 1900 that in diabetics, there was retrogression in the islets of Langerhans, those deep small cells in the pancreas.

Learn more about the origins of insulin HERE

© 2012 Athena Goodlight

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