The Financial Express


Our scientists' contribution to diabetes research

Our scientists' contribution to diabetes research

The medical condition called diabetes is a global public health issue. People knew about this health hazard since ancient times through its characteristic symptoms such as 'sweet urine' and muscle loss. But the exact cause of this condition was unknown to them. Even modern medicine cannot say that it has full knowledge about the causes of diabetes. However, in the late 19th century (1889), two German physicians Joseph von Mering and Oskar Minkowski carried out an experiment on a pet dog to see what role pancreas plays in the medical condition of diabetes. They removed the dog's pancreas. The dog developed diabetic condition as it passed urine frequently and the urine's sugar content was high. Ultimately, the dog died of diabetes as the two scientists had no knowledge of treating the condition. In early 20th century (1910), the English physiologist Sir Edward Albert Sharpey-Schafer first discovered that the lack of a substance secreted by the pancreas in the blood lies behind the 'diabetes mellitus' or the kind of diabetic condition where the patient's blood and urine contain sugar. In the other kind, diabetes insipidus, blood and urine of the patient do not contain sugar. Edward Schafer also coined the term 'insulin' to name the chemical substance that controls sugar in the blood. In 1921, two scientists in the field of medicine, Sir Frederick Grant Banting of Canada and an American-Canadian Charles Herbert Best again conducted the experiment on dog's pancreas like their predecessors, Mering and Minkowski. They found that the condition of diabetes created in the dog whose pancreas or, more specifically, the 'islets of Langerhans' in the pancreas was removed could be cured of diabetes if the pancreas was replanted in its body. Later, by the spring of 1922, the Toronto researchers Banting, Charles Best and J.B. Collip and their supervisor J.J.R. Macleod were able to extract insulin from the pancreas of a cow and announced the news of their discovery. In 1923, they won the Nobel Prize in medicine for their work.

Sir Harold Parcival Himsworth, a British scientist working on diabetes and liver diseases published his seminal work in the British medical journal. Lancet, in 1936 dwelling on the two types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2, that he had discovered. Dr. Gerald (Jerry) Reaven, an American endocrinologist in his 1988's Banting lecture (in memory of Frederick Banting) organised by the American Diabetic Association put forward his theory that insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance are directly related to 'central or male-type' obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension). This is also called the metabolic syndrome, which involves a large number of symptoms related to diabetic condition and cardiovascular diseases. In fact, the general term, diabetes, which the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of America defines as 'a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy' is a subject about which the last word has not yet been said and as such it is still under intense study. As part of the international efforts to get to the bottom of diabetes, a team of Bangladeshi scientists led by Professor Madhu S Malo, a former Harvard professor and an adviser to Bangladesh Diabetic Association, has found that the deficiency of an enzyme called Intestinal Alkaline Phosphatase (IAP) in the body increases the risk of getting diabetes 13.8 times. The study was conducted during the five-year period (2015- 2020) on 574 people aged between 30 and 60. He disclosed his findings at a press conference recently. The research findings by Dr. Malo and his team, it is believed, will open up a new horizon in the research on diabetes.


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