Insulin extracts, which save the lives of many thousands of people, were developed by the combined efforts of three physiologists, Sir Frederick Banting from Ontario, Canada, Charles H. Best from Maine, United States, and John James Rickard Macleod from Perth, Scotland. In 1921 they became the first to obtain the hormone in a form consistently effective in the treatment of diabetes.
Normally, insulin is manufactured in the human pancreas, which lies behind the stomach. It enables the liver to store surplus sugar and the brain and muscles to be nourished by this essential food. When the insulin supply fails, the body can no longer use this fuel and an excess of sugar may spill through the kidneys into the urine. Diabetes, as this condition is called, previously meant almost certain death. The achievements of Banting, Best and Macleod at the University of Toronto, Canada, gave sufferers the prospect of a long and healthy life.
The three men were following up the work of two German physicians, Joseph Von Mering (1849-19080 and Oskar Minkowski (1858-1931), who in 1889 showed that the removal of the pancreas in dogs caused diabetes. With this link established, scientists set out to discover what contribution the pancreas made in preventing the disease.
In 1909 one of them J .de Meyer, suggested the name insulin for this supposed internal secretion. Finally the three Toronto researchers discovered how to obtain the insulin from the pancreas of an Ox and inject it into human beings. In January, 1922, Banting administered crude insulin to a patient for the first time.
Banting and Macleod won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1923, and Banting insisted on sharing his award with Best. Banting, who was knighted in 1934, was killed in a plane crash on February 21, 1941, while on a war mission connected with aviation medicine. Best succeeded him as head of the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research at Toronto University. Since their discovery, the extract has been refined, and many patients control their diabetes by administering their own insulin injections.