Remembering Banting, Best and “Pancreatic Extracts”: March 22: Snapshots in History

March 22, 2018 | John P.

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On March 22 and beyond, take a moment to look back at the origins of a life-saving substance for many diabetics called insulin and those involved in its isolation, refinement and reproduction. Much of the story was relayed in a previous blog post called Remembering Sir Frederick Banting and Insulin: July 27: Snapshots in History. However, the purpose here is to draw attention to a research paper published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) that was publicly released on March 22, 1922 as well as noting the reaction of the local print media to this occurrence. The research paper in question was entitled Pancreatic Extracts in the Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus The authors of the paper were F. G. Banting, C. H. Best, J. B. Collip, W. R. Campbell, and A. A. Fletcher, who had affiliations with the University of Toronto and Toronto General Hospital.

Autographed copy of Pancreatic extracts in the treatment of diabetes mellitus T10011

(Credit: University of Toronto – Pancreatic extracts in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. Digital ID: T10011. Location: MS. COLL. 76 (Banting), Box 61, Folder 12; Full-text access to the article is available through the U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health.

The Globe newspaper, in its March 23, 1922 edition, on page 14, published an article entitled “RESEARCH WORK GIVES RESULTS: Diabetes Sufferers Get Message of Cheer From Experimenters: WILL PROLONG LIVES”. Here is an excerpt from that article:

“As a result of research which has been in progress for some time at the University of Toronto, a discovery has been made which may prove to be of value in the treatment of diabetes. It is not claimed to be a cure, but, it is said, it may be the means of prolonging the lives of sufferers from the disease…Particulars of the discovery are set forth in an article…in The Canadian Medical Association Journal…an active pancreatic extract discovered and prepared by two young men – Dr. F. G. Banting and Mr. C. H. Best –…first prolonged the life of a diabetic dog fifty-six days beyond previously established records, while a definite improvement in…seven patients is reported from the use of a highly potent extract discovered as a result of the animal experiments and injected twice a day under the skin…”

To view the referenced article from 1922 in full, please access the Globe and Mail Historical Newspaper Archive database with a valid Toronto Public Library card.

The Toronto Daily Star newspaper, on page 1 of the March 22, 1922 edition, offered its readers a large banner headline which read “TORONTO DOCTORS ON TRACK OF DIABETES CURE”, followed underneath by an article entitled “DIABETES SUFFERERS GIVEN MESSAGE OF HOPE: Discovery Made at University of Toronto Will Be Means of Prolonging Life Considerably – F. G. Banting and C. H. Best Pushed Experiments All Last Summer”. Here is an excerpt from the article:

“…But the fact remains that one of the most important discoveries in modern medical research has been made at the university here. It is not a cure for diabetes, its authors state. Within six months, however, their discovery will be used on a large scale, they hope, to prolong life quite considerably at least…So impressed with the feasibility of Dr. Banting’s hypothesis was Professor J. J. R. Macleod, an investigator himself in this field of research for over 15 years that every opportunity was given…As the best man to assist Dr. Banting, Prof. Macleod chose Charles H. Best, a clever young graduate in the physiology and biochemistry course…”

Here is another excerpt from the article which continued on page 2 of the March 22, 1922 issue of the Toronto Daily Star:

“…’When can patients be treated?’ Dr. Banting was asked. ‘Not for three to six months’, the doctor replied, decidedly.  Not even to his own friends could he supply extract…even if he so desired…lack of extract had forced the doctors to discontinue their injections in the case of some of the people who were undergoing the experiment…”

To view the referenced article from 1922 in full, please access the Toronto Star Historical Newspaper Archive database with a valid Toronto Public Library card.

A timeline webpage entitled Discovery of Insulin at University of Toronto noted that no potent insulin was produced between March and May of 1922. C. H. Best finally succeeded in producing potent insulin in May 1922 after working with J. B. Collip and others to this end. Subsequently, Best was put in charge of insulin production for all of Canada at the Connaught Anti-Toxin Labs.

Consider the following title for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


The discovery of insulin

Related Post:

Remembering Sir Frederick Banting and Insulin: July 27: Snapshots in History