Bob Elliott has spent his career researching Type 1 diabetes is caused by the death of clusters of cells in the pancreas called islets of Langerhans (or islets). Islets produce the , which is vital for survival. Insulin regulates blood sugar levels by storing sugar in fat and muscle cells and stopping the liver from releasing sugar.
Bob Elliott (
Type 1 [diabetes] usually occurs in young people, previously healthy, could be any one of us – they don’t have to be overweight or underweight or anything – just a normal young person who suddenly out of the blue develops these symptoms, over a matter of a few days or a few weeks, where they start drinking incessantly, passing large volumes of urine, and unless they’re treated with , they can die rather quickly, in a matter of days, even from the onset of symptoms.
The use of insulin for the treatment of diabetes was a tremendous discovery back in 1921. Prior to that, all type 1 diabetics died within a few weeks, sometimes a few months, but they didn’t last very long. And the reason why the type 1 diabetic needs this insulin is the cells which make insulin in their pancreas die out. It’s not as though they’re there and not working properly – they just die out for reasons not known.
Insulin is an extremely important. It’s released from these little nubbins of tissue in your pancreas called the islets of Langerhans – islets just means they’re a little island and Langerhans just happens to be the guy who first discovered them under the microscope. And they make insulin and insulin is essential for life, because what it does is it shifts the goodies you’ve absorbed from your diet into body cells where it can be used. Without the insulin, you can have as many goodies as you like in your blood but you can’t access them so you’ll die of acute starvation. There’s a lot of nasty consequences from lack of insulin, and that is completely reversed by giving insulin.
University of Michigan Museum of Art.
Historic photos courtesy of Eli Lilly and Company Archives.
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Professor David Fankhauser