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The History of Insulin


The discovery of insulin changed the lives of people with diabetes.


Since insulin was discovered in 1921, it has become one of the most thoroughly studied molecules in scientific history.

Diabetes has been recognised as a distinct medical condition for at least 3,500 years, but its cause was a mystery until early last century. At that time, the only way to control diabetes was through a diet of low in carbohydrate and sugar, and high in fat and protein. Instead of dying shortly after diagnosis, this diet allowed diabetics to live - but only for about a year.


Exactly what was wrong, or missing, in the sugar metabolism of people with diabetes was unknown until a group of Canadian reasearchers purified insulin in 1921 and proved that diabetes is a disease of insulin deficiency.


Then after further and painstaking research in 1922 a diabetic teenager in Toronto named Leonard Thompson became the first person to receive an injection of insulin. He improved dramatically.


Another first recipient of insulin was Elizabeth Mary Hughes.


Elizabeth arrived in Toronto from America a frail child, fighting to stay alive just one more day, armed with a hopeful spirit that refused to dimnish de-spite her serious condition.


It was the discovery of insulin that allowed her to live a long life. She died in 1981 at the age of 73, having had children and grandchildren of her own. Over the course of 58 years, Elizabeth received some 42,000 injections. Insulin made those 58 years possible.


So help us celebrate the discovery of insulin 90 years ago by raising £90 to support the 59,000 people in Wales who depend on insulin for their survival.


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