Diabetes Awareness: A Look Back And Ahead

November is diabetes awareness month. Read this article to raise your own diabetes aware and share it with others.

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November is Diabetes Awareness Month and World Diabetes Day is November 14, the birthday of the man credited with the discovery of insulin—Frederick Banting.

Diabetes is a chronic, metabolic disease which can lead, over time, to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Diabetes awareness aims to improve understanding of this disease within your family and your community.

An estimated 34.3 million Americans, 10.5%, have diabetes according to the CDC’s National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2020 and 88 million adults, approximately 1 in 3, have prediabetes. New diagnosed cases for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are on the rise for U.S. youths.  

Diabetic retinopathy, the disease that affects the eyes, is a leading cause of blindness, yet vision loss can be prevented.

A Look Back

Fredrick Banting was a Canadian orthopedic surgeon who was fascinated with the published research into the role of the pancreas in diabetes. In 1901 it was discovered that the pancreas produces insulin from a collection of cells known as the Islets of Langerhans, which are  irregularly shaped patches of endocrine tissue located within the pancreas.  

The problem Banting wanted to solve was extracting the insulin from the pancreas. Many attempts had been made, but all of them had failed.

Banting had an idea but had no research experience and needed help. He convinced the head of the University of Toronto to give him a laboratory and a research assistant.  Banting and his research assistant, Charles Best, started work on May 17, 1921. James Collip, an experienced Canadian biochemist, was asked to join Banting and Best in December 1921 to purify their insulin extract.  

On January 23, 1922, a 14-year-old boy, Lenard Thompson, became the first person to receive an insulin injection as treatment for diabetes. By 1923 insulin was widely available and a diagnosis of diabetes was no longer an immediate death sentence.

Insulin from cattle and pigs was used for many years, but it could cause allergic reactions in some patients. In 1978 recombinant DNA technology made it possible to insert a human gene into a common bacterium so it will produce the protein (insulin) encoded by the human gene. The insulin is extracted from the bacteria and purified.

Today and a Look Ahead

Diabetes is now a manageable disease and the technology for managing it is constantly evolving.  The American Diabetes Association (ADA) has a Device Technology section on its website that describes and explains continuous glucose monitoring devices, glucose meters, and insulin pumps.

On the ADA website you also can find a Diabetes Education Program. These programs are located throughout the U.S. and the educators in the programs work with diabetics to give them the information, skills, and resources they need to successfully manage their diabetes. Medicare and most insurance plans cover these diabetes education programs.

On September 28, 2016 the FDA approved the first artificial pancreas device system. It works by inserting a very tiny sensor under the skin, usually on the stomach or arm, that measures the glucose fluid in the fluid between cells every few minutes and sends this information to an insulin pump attached to the body that, when needed, delivers the right amount of insulin. In this way insulin is released throughout the day as a natural pancreas would.

Islet cell transplants are in the experimental phase and being done in 17 centers around the country that are participating in islet cell research programs. The challenges the researcher face are methods for collecting enough islet cells for a transplant and preventing rejection of the transplant.

What Can You Do?

Improve your own diabetes awareness.

Living with diabetes is now easier than ever before. Share this information with your friends and family to raise their level of knowledge and understanding of this disease.

No matter what, every patient with diabetes needs to have their eyes examined yearly. Severe vision loss and blindness can be prevented, but only with timely and regular examination.

If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call us (877) 245.2020.

Nader Moinfar, M.D., M.P.H.
Retina Specialist
Orlando, FL

Jon Doe