Diabetes UK is marking this year's World Diabetes Day today by urging people totweet the hashtag #WhoIsBantingto remember the diabetes research pioneer Sir Frederick Banting, and to highlight the vital role of diabetes research.
Banting was jointly responsible for the first use of insulin in people with Type 1 diabetes in 1922, but despite this being one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century, he is generally unknown among the general public. Given that World Diabetes Day is held on his birthday, we want to make people more aware of his contribution, which transformed Type 1 diabetes from a death sentence into a condition that people can live with.
Diabetes research for the future
We hope that focusing on the career of one of the greatest diabetes researchers will show people the potential of diabetes research to transform people's lives, and so inspire people to support the current generation of researchers. As well as telling Banting's story, it will highlight current ongoing research such as:
- The artificial pancreas: a technology that monitors blood glucose levels and adjusts the amount of insulin being administered by an insulin pump to ensure the person is always getting the right amount. We are currently funding a project where, for the first time, adults with Type 1 diabetes are using it in the home environment.
- Type 1 vaccine: we are funding work to better understand the role of the immune system in the development of Type 1 diabetes, in the hope that this will help lead towards a vaccine for this type of diabetes.
- Low-calorie diet: we recently announced funding for its biggest ever research grant, trying to find out whether a low-calorie diet should be offered as a treatment option to put Type 2 diabetes into remission.
Celebrating an enormous achievement
Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK, said, "The story of how Banting and his colleagues made a scientific breakthrough that has saved the lives of countless people over the last 80 years is hugely inspiring and I am pleased that on his birthday we are celebrating this enormous achievement by one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century.
Transforming people's lives
"But looking back to the 1920s is also a great way of reminding ourselves how far research has come and can help illustrate the real potential of diabetes research to transform people's lives. It is not just the use of insulin that has changed. We are proud that aspects of diabetes healthcare we now take for granted, from use of statins to the eye check people get once a year, have come out research Diabetes UK has funded. It really does make a difference.
"Real hope for the future"
"Clearly, life for people with diabetes – and particularly Type 1 diabetes – is immeasurably better today than it was back then. It is no longer a death sentence and many people with diabetes live long and healthy lives. But as well as celebrating the past, World Diabetes Day is also a chance to focus on how much more we need to do. Rates of complications such as amputation and blindness are still too high and we still have too many people dying before their time. We need more research to bring this to an end, but the projects we are funding at the moment offer real hope for a future where no one has to die or have debilitating health complications just because they have been diagnosed with diabetes."