An Overview of the History Of Diabetes Treatment Options

The diabetes treatment options today are becoming increasingly sophisticated, offering diabetics more control over their blood sugar levels and overall health. Inventions such as the insulin pump and insulin pen ensure medications are delivered at exact and appropriate levels that are just enough to return the body back to a state of homeostasis. But how was the disorder named and how did today’s healthcare system develop these innovative, life changing ideas?

Origin of the Term Diabetes Mellitus

People throughout history have worked on discovering exactly what diabetes is and how it impacts the bodies’ functions. Named by Aretoeus, a physician in Greece over 2000 years ago, the term diabetes means “siphon.” In 1675 Dr. Thomas Willis added the term “mellitus” or “honey.” These two terms described basic symptoms of the disease which include frequent urination which is sweet smelling and tasting.

The Creation of Insulin

There is a historical debate about who discovered insulin, because more than one scientist has claimed to have made this breakthrough. Nicolae Paulescu, a Romanian scientist has been credited with this innovation in 1916. He was able to make a crude form of insulin out of extract from a bovine pancreas, hydrochloric acid and sodium hydroxide. This mixture was eventually injected into a diabetic dog. The results of this experiment made history when the diabetes treatment was able to normalize the canine’s insulin levels.

Transition to the Use of Insulin in Humans

In 1921, Nobel Prize winner Frederick G. Banting added to the elaborate history of diabetes treatment options. Altering the formula created by Paulescu, he began to further his research at the University of Toronto. He eventually created a method to remove anti-diabetic cells (insulin) from pancreases extracted from cattle and turn them into an oral medication.

Unfortunately, while the research and experiments provided invaluable information, Banting’s initial treatments for this disorder were met without success. Also, the diabetes treatments being used were suitable for animal use, but the mixture was not pure enough for human consumption.

Purifying Insulin

It did not take long for Banting to progress in his research, and in late 1921 Bertram Collip joined his team of scientists. His experience in biochemistry helped purify the extracted animal insulin enough for human use.

First Test Subject

One year later, human testing began. The first diabetic to receive the purified insulin injections was Leonard Thompson, a 14 year old boy who was near death due to his condition. The success of this trial run led to voluntary testing on other diabetics, which helped the scientists determine proper doses of insulin to control high blood sugar.

Only One Treatment Option

Initially, there was only one treatment option available to diabetics. This method used a glass syringe and bottled medication. Even though this was an effective option, there was a risk of accidental injury from breaking glass, sanitation issues and problems associated with determining dosing levels (leading to accidental insulin overdoses.)

Modern Innovations in Treatment

With the advances made in technology and healthcare today, accidental overdoses are uncommon and diabetes treatment options have become easier with the invention of:

  • Eli Lilly and Company creating an injectable treatment for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in 1961
  • The creation of the first glucose test strips in 1964 by Miles Laboratories
  • In 1973, single use pre-measured syringes were released onto the marketplace. This eventually led to the development of the insulin pen.
  • Protypes and basic models of the insulin pump were developed in the 1960’s, but the most famous design was created by Dean Kamen and sold to Baxter Health Care in 1981.

The development and use of insulin has undergone many changes as a diabetes treatment option. Starting as awkward to use and administer injections, management of this disease today is easy and accurate. The invention and evolution of glucose monitors, portable insulin devices and insulin pumps make daily life easier for diabetics, and simplified management of glucose levels.

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