Thursday, June 9, 2011

Discovery of Islets of Langerhans

The islets of Langerhans, which are embedded in the exocrine pancreatic tissue, are known to secrete three hormones: insulin, glucagon and somatostatin.

In 1869, a medical student named Paul Langerhans described systems of cells in the pancreas which he thought were lymph glands.

It was the eminent French histologist Edouard Laguesse whom in 1893 reported these spots while examining the pancreas of an executed criminal; he generously added ‘I provisionally designate them by the name islets of Langerhans, thereby immortalizing the name’.

In 1901, Eugene Opie of Johns Hopkins Unversity, associated diabetes with an alteration in the islets of Langerhans and proposed that they were the source of an internal secretion.

Late in the nineteenth century, scientists had realized there was a connection between the pancreas and diabetes. The connection was further narrowed down to the islets of Langerhans.

Sharpey-Schafer, the leading British physiologist of the time, proposed that the islets of Langerhans secreted a substance that controlled the metabolism of carbohydrate.

From 1910 to 1920, Oscar Minkowski and others tried unsuccessfully to find and extract the active ingredient from the islets.

The role of the islets of Langerhans in diabetes mellitus was suspected in 1909 by J. de Meyer, who named the hypothetical secretion insulin, but this was not proved until 1921, when F. G Banting and C. H Best successfully extracted insulin from the pancreas.
Discovery of Islets of Langerhans
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