Sugar on the floor

From the Eli Lilly Archives

Yesterday I went to the New York Historical Society’s exhibit Breakthrough: The Dramatic Story of the Discovery of Insulin (through January 31; $12 for adult non-members). I know–the title is breathless and leads the witness. But forgive the curators. The “drama” was certainly real, but that’s not what I found most compelling. I was struck by:

  • How many primary documents still exist: lab notebooks, correspondence among the principals, prototypical vials and syringes from over the decades, fan letters from diabetes patients to Dr. Elliott Joslin, a silent film describing early insulin production from pigs and cattle, etc.
  • What a brutal, inexorable, miserable disease diabetes was before insulin. 86% of children presenting with under age 16 died in ketoacidosis. Of course, as Joslin noted, with the advent of insulin, the era of coma gave way to the era of  complications.
  • How fast it all happened–even (especially?) by today’s standards. As described by Janice Hopkins Tanne, in 1920 Frederick Banting had the idea to use “pancreatic extracts” to treat diabetics. A few months later he persuaded the University of Toronto’s John Macleod to let him study the problem in animals. By the end of 1921 they had presented their stunning results on dogs. In 1922 the first human patient was treated with insulin. A few months later Lilly agreed to make the stuff on a large scale.  1923: Banting and Macleod won the Nobel. Bada bing.
  • All this despite much backstabbing and subterfuge in the lab. More on that can be found here.

Joslin was one of the great translators of basic science to the clinic. He pioneered self-management. He saw empowered patients not as a risk or as a threat to his stature, but as a necessity if they were to improve and maintain their own health. “Teaching is cheaper than nursing,” he said. Today millions of diabetics routinely manage their own glucose levels. How long before millions of others routinely manage their own pharmacogenetic drug responses?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
This entry was posted in the shoulders of giants, the subject of humans. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Sugar on the floor

  1. As a type 1 diabetic for over 40 years, I am grateful to Joslin not only for the discovery of insulin, but for the recognition that the patient is an important member–possibly the most important member–of ;the treatment team.

  2. thanks for sharing this amazing message

  3. polo says:

    The president and first lady are not concerned about being invited to those children’s wedding. How ludicrous to have made up “sources say”.

  4. Hey there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

  5. I loved your article.Much thanks again. Much obliged.

  6. Louis Vuitton Outlet Online Store

  7. Everyone loves designer bags but most of them are expensive. Louis Vuitton is a reputable brand for designer handbags. You can get Louis Vuitton designer bags at a great discount at a Louis Vuitton outlet. If you can’t find a Louis Vuitton outlet anywhere near to where you stay you can search for one using Google. Even if the nearest outlet is a few hours’ drive you should try to visit it you can avail incredible discounts at these outlets.

  8. These are in fact enormous ideas in concerning blogging.
    You have touched some fastidious points here. Any way keep up wrinting.