The Most Dramatic Moment in Medical History

A large hospital ward crammed with sick kids. A total of 50 children dying of diabetic tetoacidosis, with the majority of them in a coma state. In attendance were bereaved family members who were anticipating the inevitable… death.

Three desperate scientists, Frederick Banting, a medical scientist and Nobel winner, lab assistant Charles Best, and biochemist James Collip, rush from bedside to bedside injecting the entire ward with the newly refined medication, Insulin.

Before they reached the last dying child, the first few were waking up from their comas in one of the most dramatic events in medical history. Exclamations of excitement erupted from the hurried relatives.

Insulin becomes widely available to the general public in 1923, allowing people with diabetes to live longer. Insulin is essential for controlling glucose and fat metabolism in the body. It causes blood glucose to be absorbed by cells. When insulin stops working, diabetes develops.

Insulin was discovered through a protracted and collaborative process that began with Paul Langerhans’ study of the pancreas in 1869. Nicolae Paulescu, a Romanian physiology professor, was successful in isolating insulin. The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Banting and J.J.R Macleod for refining and purifying insulin for human use. Best and Collip were awarded the prize jointly.

Diabetes affects over 8% of the US population. From Langerhans to Banting these scientists saved countless lives.