OTD: First successful test on human with diabetes

On today’s date in 1922, researchers completed the first successful test on a human patient with diabetes when a second dose of insulin was administered to Leonard Thompson.

About two weeks earlier, Thompson—only 14 years old—received his first injection in Toronto, according to Diabetes.co.uk. The first injection had an apparent impurity, which was likely the cause of an allergic reaction; however, following a refining process developed by Dr. James Collip, who obtained a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Toronto in 1916, the injection’s canine pancreas extract was improved.

The second, improved dosage was successfully delivered to Thompson 12 days after the first injection. Thompson’s health improved, and he lived another 13 years—while taking regular insulin doses—before dying of pneumonia at the age of 27.


Until insulin was made clinically available, a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes was a death sentence, and usually a quick one—sometimes death came within months, but frequently, it happened in weeks or even days.

Following the birth of an idea and nine months of experimentation, and through the combined efforts of four men at the University of Toronto; insulin for the treatment of diabetes was discovered and purified for human use.

Rural Canadian physician Dr. Frederick Banting conceived the idea of extracting insulin from the pancreas in 1920. He and his assistant Charles Best prepared pancreatic extracts to prolong the lives of diabetic dogs with advice and laboratory aid from Professor John Macleod. The crude insulin extract was purified for human testing by the aforementioned Dr. Collip.

Insulin—now made from cattle pancreas—reversed the death sentence for diabetes patients around the world.

One of the note’s elements is based on an early photograph of an insulin bottle.


In 2011, the Bank of Canada issued its first $100 polymer banknote, the design of which celebrates Canadian innovation in medical research, including the discovery of insulin to treat diabetes.

The banknote depicts an image of a researcher, representing Canada’s long-standing commitment to medical research and all the men and women who have contributed to this field. The image of the microscope is based on a Carl Zeiss Axioplan 2 imaging microscope used for cutting-edge health research worldwide.

Another image on the note is based on a photograph of one of the earliest insulin bottles. The original artifact, which dates to 1923, is owned by Sanofi Pasteur Canada.

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