100 Years of Diabetes History

LAYING THE GROUNDWORK

In 1907, Robert Russell Bensley, M.D., devises histological staining techniques that enable better cellular visualization of the pancreas.

A CLOSER LOOK AT THE PANCREAS

Between 1910 and 1911, Ernest Lyman Scott, Ph.D., discovers the first biological indication of insulin.

Later in 1911, Anton J. (Ajax) Carlson, Ph.D., discovers that the “internal secretion” (i.e., insulin) of the pancreas is circulating in the blood.

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DELTA CELLS DISCOVERED

In 1930, William Bloom discovers Delta cells in the pancreatic islets of Langerhans (where the pancreas’s endocrine cells originate). It is later found that these Delta cells produce somatostatin, a peptide hormone integral to regulating the endocrine system.

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INSIGHTS INTO INSULIN

In 1946, Konrad Bloch, Ph.D., shows that insulin regulates the biosynthesis of fatty acid and cholesterol.

Around the same time, Rachmiel Levine, M.D., proposes that insulin is key to stimulating the transport of glucose into fat and muscle cells from the blood, which lowers blood glucose levels.

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DISCOVERY OF PROINSULIN

In 1965, Donald Steiner, M.D., discovers proinsulin, a precursor protein for insulin. The discovery of proinsulin is a landmark that opens up a whole new field for investigating how secretory proteins are manufactured and processed in cells.

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MODY AND NEONATAL DIABETES IDENTIFIED

Starting in 1991, Graeme Bell, Ph.D. (working with Nancy Cox, Ph.D., and Kenneth Polonsky, M.D.), identifies the first four of six known genes associated with Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young (MODY). Later, Dr. Bell, Dr. Steiner, and Louis Philipson, M.D., Ph.D., identify mutations in insulin that cause neonatal diabetes.

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THE KOVLER DIABETES CENTER OPENS

In 2002, David Ehrmann, M.D., publishes findings of the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) study in the New England Journal of Medicine. The DPP found that participants who lost a modest amount of weight reduced their chances of developing diabetes.

In 2006, Dr. Philipson is named director of the Kovler Diabetes Center, established at the University of Chicago through a generous gift from Sally and Jonathan Kovler.

In 2007, Dr. Philipson diagnoses six-year-old Lilly Jaffe with neonatal diabetes. Lilly, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as an infant, is able to successfully transition from an insulin to oral medication that enabled her body to produce insulin on its own.

In 2008, Siri Greeley, M.D., Ph.D., Rochelle Naylor, M.D., Dr. Bell and Dr. Philipson create the first national web-based monogenic diabetes registry, to better track patients with neonatal diabetes and MODY.

THE RESEARCH CONTINUES

Robert Sargis, M.D., Ph.D., studies the effects on fat cell function of synthetic chemicals released in the environment, to better understand how these chemicals may be contributing to the obesity and diabetes epidemic.

Matthew Brady, Ph.D., studies the intersection between circadian behavior, sleep and subcutaneous adipose tissue insulin sensitivity, as well as the role of mammary adipose tissue in the progression of triple negative breast cancer.

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