100 years of insulin: A special collection


The year 2021 marks 100 years since the discovery of the hormone insulin by Sir Frederick G Banting, Charles H Best and JJR Macleod at the University of Toronto. By 10 November 1921 the group had successfully treated a dog with diabetes, with their insulin extract, for 70 days. By January 1922, the first human diabetes patient was treated with the hormone and, since then, the treatment has changed diabetes from a rapidly fatal condition to one that is treatable and manageable, saving millions of lives.


The special collection is overseen by:


James Cantley (Internal Editor)

James Cantley


Decio Eizirik (Guest Editor)

Decio Eizirik

The discovery of insulin was one of these rare events in the history of medical research that acutely changed a mortal disease into a chronic but treatable one. Unfortunately, the treatment of diabetes remains a challenge, and many patients eventually develop chronic complications associated with the disease that decrease both their life span and life quality.

A central component of nearly all forms of diabetes is a relative or absolute pancreatic beta cell deficiency; the present series of articles provides a timely overview on how beta cells function or fail, and lead to disease.

We hope that this will trigger additional research that may translate into novel therapies to preserve beta cells in diabetes. None of these subsequent steps will be "spectacular jumps" as the discovery of insulin, but step by step they will improve the life of diabetic patients and, hopefully, one day, allow prevention of the disease in many of them.



Articles published within the special collection:


A brief history of diabetes genetics: insights for pancreatic beta-cell development and function
Jennifer M Ikle and Anna L Gloyn

Arresting or curing type 1 diabetes: an elusive goal, but closing the gap
Pieter-Jan Martens, Conny Gysemans, and Chantal Mathieu

Beta-cell function and human islet transplantation: can we improve?
Jennifer Chen and Jenny E Gunton

100 years of insulin: progress, current perspectives and future challenges
James Cantley and Decio Eizirik

Pancreas pathology in type 1 diabetes: an evolving story
Sarah J Richardson and Alberto Pugliese

Towards improved precision and a new classification of diabetes mellitus
Emma Ahlqvist, Rashmi B Prasad, and Leif Groop