What did dogs teach humans about diabetes?


What is Diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus, commonly known as diabetes, is a metabolic disease that causes high blood sugar. Diabetes mellitus is derived from the Greek word diabetes meaning siphon – to pass through and the Latin word mellitus meaning honeyed or sweet. This is because in diabetes excess sugar is found in blood as well as the urine. There are two types of diabetes associated with youth and obesity- Type1 and Type 2. It is a situation in which your body fails to produce insulin or use it effectively. According to reports more than 400,000,000 people worldwide are suffering from Diabetes. It is also estimated that this population will increase up to 50% in the next 20 years.

What are the signs of Diabetes?

Following are the 3 main signs of diabetes

  1. Polyuria – the need to frequently urinate, particularly at night.
  2. Polydipsia – increased thirst & need for fluids.
  3. Polyphagia – an increased appetite

When was diabetes discovered and who discovered it?

The history of diabetes goes far back than you can imagine. The term diabetes was first used by the Greek physician Apollonius of Memphis around 250 BC. The signs of diabetes and the two types of diabetes were also discovered by ancient Indian physicians. An Indian healer also named the disease Madhumeh; madhu means honey and the combination means sweetness in urine. The sweet taste in urine was notice by ancient Greeks, Chinese, Egyptians and Persians too. However, the causes and cure for the disease were unknown.

How did dogs help humans?

In 1890, the German scientists Von Mering and Minkowski discovered that removing a dog’s pancreas caused it to develop all the signs of diabetes, which established organ’s vital role in the disease. In 1910, research showed that diabetes resulted from lack of insulin. In 1920, Sir Fredrick Banting and his student Charles Best advanced the findings of their German colleagues and confirmed that the pancreas were responsible for regulating blood glucose. They were also successful in treating diabetic dogs by injecting them with insulin they had prepared from tissue pancreas of other healthy dogs. In 1992, the researchers working with biochemist Sir  James Collip were able to develop a similar extract from pancreas of cows, which turned out to be an effective treatment for diabetes.

How did all of this help the dogs?

Diabetes is a disease that affects not only humans but dogs too. Dogs develop diabetes at the rate of 2 cases per 1000 dogs. The medical experimentation is a form of cruelty towards animals and something controversial till date. But if we look on the bright side, this has helped doctors to successfully treat diabetes in dogs by using insulin. If the purified pig insulin, commonly used for dogs fails to work the vet may even turn to a formulation of human insulin. Nowadays, dog’s diabetes can be treated and monitored with similar measures and precautions taken by humans. So in a way dogs helped humans and humans helped dogs in return.

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