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Niagara Catholic Regional Fair
Discovery of Insulin
My project provides a timeline of events that led to the discovery of insulin at the University of Toronto in 1922. It also describes what diabetes is, why insulin is essential for life, and how the availability of insulin transformed the lives of individuals living with diabetes – and continues to do so not only in Canada, but throughout the world.
What was the most interesting thing you learned about your topic?
The fact that insulin was initially isolated from the pancreas of cattle that were being used for meat production is quite interesting. Scientists would collect the pancreas from the slaughterhouse, and take it to the lab where they would isolate and purify insulin to be tested in humans.
What important lessons have you learned that you want to share with other Canadians?
I learned that perseverance and teamwork was critical to the discovery of insulin. Dr. Banting had the initial idea and convinced Dr. MacLeod who was a leading scientist at the University of Toronto to help him pursue his idea. Dr. MacLeod provided Dr. Banting with laboratory space and research dogs, and assigned him a summer research student (Dr. Charles Best) to assist him with testing his ideas. Once insulin was discovered, Dr. Collip joined the team as he was a biochemist who had expertise that allowed insulin extracts to be purified so it could be tested in patients with diabetes.
How would you compare your life today to the lives of those studied in your project?
Life today is easier because a person with diabetes can control their blood glucose levels using insulin, along with careful attention to their lifestyle. Before the discovery of insulin, diabetes was a death sentence. But it is important to remember than we still need a cure for diabetes. It is important that scientists have the funding to do research that will ensure that diabetes disappears.