Diabetes Discoveries & Practice Blog

Insulin at 100: Promise for the Future

Nurse assisting a patient with an insulin shot

As we celebrate 100 years since the discovery of insulin, NIDDK researchers look back—and look ahead—at the Institute's work advancing diabetes research.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin, and the occasion allows us to reflect on how diabetes research has moved forward and improves lives of people who have diabetes. “The 1921 discovery of insulin meant that for the first time in history, children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes could live to adulthood,” said Dr. William Cefalu, director of NIDDK’s Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolic Diseases (DEM). In the past 100 years, tremendous progress has been made in diabetes research and care.

NIDDK-funded research has transformed diabetes treatment and enabled us to better understand how to manage diabetes, delay type 1 diabetes, and prevent type 2 diabetes. “Research has really moved the illness over time from a devastating and nearly always soon fatal disease to what is now a very manageable chronic condition. NIDDK’s continued investment gives hope through research, and we are dedicated to building on the progress that has been made since NIDDK was founded,” said Dr. Cefalu.

Today, people with type 1 diabetes are living longer and healthier lives, and many people will delay or never develop type 2 diabetes thanks to research-supported prevention efforts. And looking to the future, NIDDK-supported research is working to develop new diabetes management technologies and ultimately a cure for type 1 diabetes. Ongoing NIDDK-supported research includes

  • studying insulin formulations with the goal of improving how they are used, such as ultra-rapid acting insulins or highly concentrated insulins that could be delivered by a patch rather than an insulin pump
  • improving insulin therapy, and developing and testing next-generation diabetes management devices that are smaller, easier to use, and accessible to all people with this disease
  • improving devices that help people manage type 1 diabetes, including artificial pancreas technologies, through studies like the multi-center International Diabetes Closed-Loop (iDCL) Study
  • working to understand the cause of unusual forms of diabetes through the RADIANT study, the first nationwide network to study rare forms of diabetes

To learn more about the discovery and development of insulin, check out the latest edition of the NIDDK Director’s Update and watch the 100 Years of Insulin video below for a recap of some of the Institute’s most impactful research on type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

What do you think the future of diabetes treatment will look like? Tell us below in the comments.


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