On April 15th, 1923 insulin became widely available and the people dying of Type I diabetes had, for the first time in history, a chance to LIVE. My husband is a Type I diabetic. He was only 7 years old when he was diagnosed following a harrowing trip to the ER that still gives his parents nightmares. Before Dr. Frederick Banting and a medical student named Charles Best figured out how to get insulin out of a dog’s pancreas in the early 1920s, a diagnosis of juvenile diabetes was a death sentence. My husband has been living with it for more than 30 years now and I am hella grateful to the stalwart docs who figured out how to save his life before my grandparents were born.
I’m also grateful to the biochemists who figured out how to turn pig insulin into human insulin in the lab back in 1955, and to the clever scientists — Arthur Riggs and Keiichi Itakura in collaboration with Herbert Boyer — who figured out how to synthesize human insulin from E. coli bacteria in 1978. While I am at it, let me give a big ol’ shout out to the people who worked on the technology for the insulin pump, which has been of the utmost value in keeping my hubby healthy.
Even now, type I diabetics have a shortened life expectancy. To solve that problem, they are just going to have to come up with a way to grow insulin-producing islet cells in the lab and transplant them into diabetics, essentially curing diabetes. I cannot WAIT to be grateful to those scientists!