The long view of islets

A recent article in the Star Tribune highlights current research at the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic to find a cure for diabetes. Researchers are hoping to implant insulin producing islets from genetically modified pigs into humans with diabetes. The projected outcome would be an on-going production of insulin that would reverse the effects of diabetes on the body.

Experimentation with insulin as a cure for diabetes has been a primary focus for curing the disease since the early 1920s. Dr. Frederick Banting, a medical researcher at the University of Toronto, received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1923 for his research in isolating and producing insulin.

Yet, Dr. Banting always credited his eureka moment in understanding how to extract insulin from reading the article “The Relation of the Islets of Langerhans to Diabetes with Special Reference to Cases of Pancreatic Lithiasis” published in the November 1920 issue of the journal Surgery, Gynecology and Obstetrics. The article’s author was Dr. Moses Barron, a professor in the Department of Pathology at the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Barron’s article not only influenced Banting’s work and the 90-year trajectory of insulin management of diabetes, but it also influenced diabetes related pancreas transplantation research including the work of Drs. Richard Lillehei and William Kelley in the 1960s and 1970s, also at the University of Minnesota.

Read a 1934 letter from Dr. Banting to Dr. Barron where he gives credit where credit is due.