Accidental Discoveries in Medicine
Over the years, there have been many new advances in technology, food, and medicine. While things like the computer, the internet, and television were found to an extent on purpose; there have been a number of accidental discoveries in these areas as well. When thinking of accidental discoveries in the modern world, one may struggle to come up with anything. This could be that people are not educated with the origin of every-day items that are taken for granted. Take for example the chocolate chip cookie. The owner of the Toll House Inn was baking chocolate cookies when she ran out of baking chocolate. Still wanting to make the cookies, Mrs. Wakefield improvised and broke semi-sweet chocolate into chunks, thinking the chocolate would melt and mix together with the batter. Little did she know that the chocolate would not mix in, thus producing the popular chocolate chip cookie. Other accidental discoveries whose origins may not be well known include Viagra, potato chips, brandy, the microwave, Teflon, and the artificial sweetener cyclamate. There have also been many important discoveries made in the world of medicine, including penicillin, insulin, and the X-ray.
Insulin, though not a cure, has saved millions of lives and will continue to help those who suffer from diabetes. Insulin, a hormone which regulates the body’s blood sugar, is comprised of a simple protein of 2 amino acid chains. Insulin regulates the level of sugar in the blood. After eating a meal the body’s blood sugar rises. Insulin is then secreted from the pancreas, lowering the blood sugar to a normal level. When the level of blood sugar is low, insulin secretion is halted and glucose is released into the blood stream by the liver.
A lack of insulin production leads to a disorder called diabetes mellitus, known simply as diabetes. People with diabetes have an increased level of glucose in their urine, thus increasing the amount of water in the urine. This results in an increased volume of urine as well as an increased frequency of urination. Other symptoms of diabetes include hunger, frequent thirst, weight loss, and weakness.
In the early 1900’s a diagnosis of diabetes was essentially a death sentence, leaving the person with little to no hope of survival. However some hope would soon arrive for those suffering from the disorder. In 1921, at the University of Toronto, Dr. Frederick Banting along with Dr. Charles Best made the discovery of a pancreatic secretion which displayed anti-diabetic characteristics. Best and Banting ran experiments on diabetic dogs, testing the secretion’s effectiveness, if any at all. The two doctors made dogs diabetic by removing their pancreases. This proved the pancreas was somehow essential to the dogs not being diabetic. Best and Banting then found the success they were hoping for. They removed fluid from healthy dog’s Islets of Langerhans, which are patches of tissue located within the pancreas that produce insulin. Having removed this fluid, Best and Banting injected it into the diabetic dogs. This method proved itself to be successful as the diabetic dogs could be kept alive, and their diabetic symptoms disappeared. With the help of J.J.R. Macleod, the doctors continued their research. In 1922, diabetic teenager Leonard Thompson received an injection of insulin, becoming the first person in history to do so. Thompson’s symptoms improved and people suffering from diabetes finally had something to put their hope in, insulin.
Antibacterial drugs are common place, treating people who suffer from diseases and infections. The first and one of the most important of these drugs is penicillin. Penicillin, sometimes referred to as “The Wonder Drug”, is a medicine often taken for granted. Strep throat, ear infections, and minor cuts as well as more pressing diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea are just some of the ailments that were thought of as deadly...
Cited: Discovery of Insulin. http://www.discoveryofinsulin.com/Home.htm
The Time 100: Alexander Fleming. Dr. Ho, David. March 29, 1999.
W.C. Roentgen and the Discovery of X-rays. Peters, Peter.
X-ray History. http://www.lixi.com/xray.htm
Diabetes Statistics. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-statistics.jsp
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