Today’s Google Doodle celebrates Nobel Laureate Sir Frederick Banting, pioneer and co-discoverer of the insulin treatment for diabetes.
Born 125 years ago on November 14th in the town of Alliston in southwestern Ontario, Banting, along with colleagues Charles Best and John James Rickard MacLeod, first discovered in 1921 that the symptoms of diabetes could be treated with regular doses of the then-newly-identified hormone insulin. Banting’s breakthrough has become of the most successful and long-lasting discoveries of modern medicine.
In 1923, Banting and MacLeod, who was the other co-discoverer of insulin, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Best was not officially recognized with the honour of co-discoverer of insulin, but Banting did share his honours and award money with Best.
At the Banting House National Historic Site in London, Ontario, the occasion is being honoured with the unveiling of a set of commemorative bricks in the public garden, home to Banting’s statue, and a reading of letters of gratitude submitted by people from around the world who have benefited from Banting’s discovery.
“A lifetime of thank-you’s will never be enough,” one woman with Type 1 diabetes wrote there, according to the London Free Press. “Because of you, I have the chance to live a long & meaningful life full of love & laughter.”
According to museum curator Grant Maltman, visitors to Banting House have over the years left letters on Banting’s nightstand, said to be the location where inspiration first struck Banting of insulin’s potential role in the treatment of diabetes.
Maltman sees the overflow of gratitude as a testament to the lasting value of Banting’s discovery, even 95 years year later. “What’s so powerful about [the letters] is they are no different than the letters Banting, received in the 1920s,” says Maltman. “We have insulin now (to keep diabetes in check) but we don’t have anything other than insulin.”
November 14 also marks World Diabetes Day, with this year’s theme being “Eyes on Diabetes,” according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). Worldwide, 415 million adults are currently living with the disease, a number which is expected to rise to 642 million – roughly one in every ten adults – by the year 2040.
The IDF is promoting early screening for type 2 diabetes in order to decrease the risk of serious complications and is urging that those with diabetes discuss potential eye complications with their doctor, something that one quarter of those with diabetes currently do not do. Eye conditions connected to diabetes include diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema, both of which represent serious health concerns.
“Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in the working-age population of most developed countries, and the sight loss caused by this condition can have a profound impact on both an individual’s quality of life and their ability to work,” says Peter Ackland, chief executive officer of the International Agency on the Prevention of Blindness, in a press release.
There are three main forms of the disease known as diabetes mellitus. Type 1 diabetes, formerly called juvenile diabetes, represents about 10 per cent of known cases, type 2 diabetes, which makes up almost 90 per cent of cases, and gestational diabetes, a less common form of the disease which develops in women during pregnancy.
While type 1’s cause has been attributed to genetic factors, type 2 diabetes – also known as adult-onset diabetes – is commonly associated with excessive body weight, poor nutrition and lack of exercise. The IDF states that up to 70 per cent of type 2 diabetes cases can be prevented or delayed through adopting healthier lifestyles.