Thirty years of research progress: Major breakthroughs in diabetes research in the last three decades

Armen Hareyan's picture

(NC)-For thousands of years, diabetes, especially in young people, was a death sentence. Not until 1921, when University of Toronto researchers Frederick Banting and Charles Best discovered insulin, did a path to the cure for this devastating disease evolve.

Since its founding in 1970, JDRF International has played an integral role in advancing research, supporting the best scientists and helping shape the research landscape to produce results with the most impact. In 1974, Canada opened its first JDRF chapter in Montreal. To commemorate the 30th anniversary of JDRF Canada, the following list highlights the major breakthroughs in diabetes research in the last thirty years.

1974 - First chapter of JDRF Canada is founded in Montreal.

1976 - Paul E. Lacy, a JDRF-funded researcher at Washington University School of Medicine, performs the first successful islet transplantation

1979 - Researchers develop the first experimental insulin pump. Recombinant DNA technology allows bacterial production of human insulin

1982 - Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approves the first man-made (bacterially produced) human insulin

1993 - The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT) establishes tight blood glucose control can dramatically delay the development of diabetes-related complications such as retinopathy (eye disease), nephropathy (kidney disease) and neuropathy (nerve disease)

1994 - Researchers identify a constellation of 18 genes that contribute to the onset of type 1 diabetes

1996 - FDA approves the first recombinant DNA human insulin analogue, lispro (Humalog). Humalog is used to cover meals and snacks. Faster than Regular human insulin, it begins working in about 10 minutes, peaks at one to one and a half hours and is gone in about three and a half to four hours.


1998 - Researchers improve the islets' viability and create the first human embryonic stem cell lines to treat type 1 diabetes

1999 - The "Edmonton Protocol" is used for the first time in islet transplantation. Independence from the need for insulin injections for one year increases from under 10 percent to more than 80 percent

1999-2004 - FDA approves initial and updated versions of blood glucose monitoring devices, providing patients with a more complete picture of glucose level fluctuations throughout the day

2000 - Researchers discover the "master switch" that triggers complications resulting from high blood sugar

2001 - The Type 1 Diabetes Genetics Consortium (T1DGC) is created to combine and share genetic information from diabetes studies around the world. JDRF and three government institutions sponsor the consortium

2003 - Researchers identify the gene that contributes to susceptibility to type 1 diabetes

2004 - JDRF-supported researchers at Harvard University announce they have derived 17 new human embryonic stem cell lines

Advances in diabetes research to date have been nothing short of outstanding, but unless researchers continue to receive the necessary funding to do their jobs, the pathway to a cure will remain incomplete.

For more information on the research into a cure for juvenile (Type 1) diabetes, log onto

- News Canada