A scientific sea shanty about insulin

Here’s a sea shanty from the A Capella Science YouTube channel about the discovery of insulin. The song’s first-person narrator is a man named Leonard Thompson, who is dying of pneumonia but who would have died over a decade sooner had he not been the first person ever treated with insulin using an approach invented by Frederick Banting.

Link: https://youtu.be/He7X5jGt8lY

The full lyric can be found at the link above. Here’s some background:

A century ago childhood diabetes was a terminal illness, but in 1920 a surgeon named Frederick Banting came up with an idea for treating it. There was evidence that something produced in the pancreas, or more specifically in clusters of cells called the islets of Langerhans, and Banting had an idea for extracting that substance from the pancreas of an animal. He persuaded John Macleod at the University of Toronto to give him and a colleague access to research facilities to experiment on his idea, and though Macleod was skeptical he allowed Banting to give it a try. Banting, along with a medical student named Charles Best, succeeded in extracting the secretions of the islets of Langerhans first from dogs and then from cattle.

The substance was successfully used to treat diabetic dogs. The team brought in a biochemist named Bertram Collip to work on a way to purify the substance so that it could be tested on humans and in early 1922 it was, on a 14-year-old boy named Leonard Thompson who was near death from diabetes. The injection proved successful, and Thompson lived another 13 years before dying of pneumonia.

Macleod suggested naming the purified secretions from the islets of Langerhans “insulin,” from insula, the Latin word for “island.” The following year Banting and Macleod were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Banting thought the prize should have gone to himself and Best, so he split his share of the monetary award with Best, and Macleod to his credit split his with Collip.

(For more on the history see this page on the Nobel Prize and this one on Leonard Thompson.

Finally, the music is borrowed from a shanty by Stan Rogers, “Barrett’s Privateers,” which you can listen to here:

Link: https://youtu.be/ZIwzRkjn86w

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A scientific sea shanty about insulin — 1 Comment

  1. Pingback: How pharmaceutical companies take advantage of people with diabetes | D Gary Grady

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