Insulin: 34 Years of Research

Dr. Hodgkin first crystallised and X-ray photographed the protein insulin in 1934 but it would take her until 1969 to decipher the 3-D structure. It is one of the smallest proteins with only 51 amino acids but is one of the most important with respect to structure and biological function.

Diabetes is a disorder in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or the body cannot utilise the insulin produced. Insulin is a hormone needed in the metabolism of carbohydrates. Without insulin the body cannot use the the carbohydrates consumed. There is no cure for diabetes and the only treatment for Type I (insulin dependent) diabetes is daily injections of insulin.

Until recently the source of the insulin used for treatment was from the pancreas of other animals, but is now produced using genetically engineered bacteria.

The treatment now available to diabetes sufferers would not have been possible without the work done by Dr. Hodgkin and her colleagues.