Life of Scots scientist celebrated on 90th anniversary of discovery of insulin

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THE life of the Scottish scientist who played a pivotal role in the discovery of insulin is to be celebrated this week to mark the 90th anniversary of the crucial medical breakthrough.

Professor John Macleod, a medical graduate of Aberdeen University, was part of the small team of scientists at Toronto University who changed the lives of diabetics around the world and received the Nobel Prize for his contribution to the discovery of the life-saving drug.

In 1922 he was Professor of Physiology and Associate Dean of Medicine at Toronto University when he was approached by Dr Frederick Banting about a theory he and medical student Charles Best had regarding a treatment for diabetes.

Prof Macleod provided Banting with funding, full use of his laboratories and supervised the research which led to the breakthrough treatment. Banting also received the Nobel Prize.

To mark the historic discovery Aberdeen University, where Prof Macleod later became Regius Professor of Physiology, is hosting a specials lecture “Ninety Years of Insulin” on Thursday at the Suttie Centre at Foresterhill.

The speakers at the event include the American author and historian, Arthur Ainsberg, co-author of a book about the discovery of insulin, and Professor Mary Cotter, Professor of Systems Physiology at the University.

She said: “It is estimated that more than 300 million lives have already been saved as a result of the discovery of insulin, this will become even more important because of the global pandemic of diabetes which is occurring.”

The event will also feature a panel discussion about modern diabetes care and research involving Professor Donald Pearson, honorary professor at the University and lead Clinician in the Diabetes Managed Clinical Network and Head of Specialist Diabetes Services in Grampian; Professor Kevin Docherty, MacLeod-Smith Chair of Biochemistry and Jane-Claire Judson, Director of Diabetes UK (Scotland).

Professor Docherty said: “Although insulin is a wonder drug that allows most people with diabetes to lead a normal life, there are still major problems in controlling the progress of the disease. One alternative approach involves the transplantation of insulin secreting cells that have been isolated from the pancreas of donors. We have been collaborating with scientists and physicians at the Scottish Islet Transplantation Centre to exploit advances in tissue reprogramming to provide a potentially unlimited supply of insulin expressing cells for transplantation. ”