Insulin. What Is It?

Insulin Is A Hormone Produced By The Pancreas.
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. A hormone is simply a substance produced by the body to regulate and control one or more functions in the body. Insulin’s job is to guide sugar from the bloodstream and into individual cells. It’s so useful that it, or something similar, can be found all throughout nature in other animals. In humans, if the pancreas fails to produce insulin at all, you’re said to have type 1 diabetes. If your pancreas can actually produce insulin, but you have acquired insulin resistance, you have type 2 diabetes.

Therapeutic Insulin
The pancreas is not the only way to receive insulin. This hormone was first synthesized by Dr. Frederick Banting nearly a century ago. Originally, it was first developed by grinding up animal pancreases to be then distilled and used as medicine. Over the last few decades, technology has made it possible to produce large amounts of insulin, in various forms, using yeast or E.Coli. Our understanding of insulin has even lead to the ability to create forms of insulin that can behave differently in the body. For example, we can vary the “strength” of insulin and even control how fast it acts in the body.

The beauty of insulin as a medicine is that humans tolerate synthesized insulin with almost no side effects. There’s no toxic dose so it is simple and safe to use.

Why Does Insulin Need To Be Injected?
Insulin does have to be injected, but why? Insulin is a hormone, but it is also a protein. This means that if you swallow it, as in pill form, your body will treat it like food. It will go through your normal digestive process and be destroyed by your stomach fluids. By injecting it, we bypass digestion, and it is able to do its job.

However, there are other forms of insulin that are being experimented with. One of these is a patch. Unfortunately, this mode of delivery has a large challenge to overcome, mainly, that insulin is a very large molecule. This makes it difficult for insulin to be absorbed through the skin. Scientists are currently working on a way to help insulin pass easier through the skin and into the bloodstream.