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The Birthplace Of Insulin


Were you aware that one in three Canadians are affected by diabetes or pre-diabetes? Diabetes likely affects you or someone you know. About 11.7 million people live with the disease in Canada.

Diabetes is a disease where your body either can’t produce insulin or can’t properly use the insulin it produces. Insulin works to regulate the amount of sugar in your blood. While too much blood sugar can cause damage to your body, your body also needs insulin to use sugar for energy.*

Located in London Ontario, Banting House is a former residence of Dr. Frederick Banting and today a museum and office for Diabetes Canada. The Queen Anne style home was built in 1900 and purchased by Banting in 1920. It is widely known as the “birthplace of insulin.” 

Banting House not only celebrates a great Canadian discovery, but also tells the life and career of Dr. Banting.  On October 31, 1920, Banting woke up and scribbled a hypothesis at 2:00 in the morning. He had an idea to extract insulin from a dog’s pancreas. That idea has saved millions of lives around the world.

Banting began his research on diabetes at the University of Toronto. Together with his research assistant Charles Best, they discovered insulin as a successful treatment of diabetes in humans. Their patent would later be sold for $1 to the University of Toronto. Banting didn’t believe in profiting from a medication that could save lives.

A sign within the museum explains, “People don’t understand it’s not your fault.” The stigma of diabetes plays a huge toll on the mental health of those affected by the disease. Since type 2 diabetes has a connection to diet and exercise, those who live with the disease are often blamed for their diabetes. The reality is there are several factors that contribute to why someone may develop the disease. In addition, there are also different types of diabetes including type 1 (an autoimmune disease) and gestational (a temporary form of the disease during pregnancy).

In one of the current museum exhibitions, visitors are encouraged to write a letter to Banting in the room where the idea for insulin was imagined. Notecards are filled with grateful words from both those who use insulin today and friends/family of those who live with diabetes.  

Located in Sir Frederick G. Banting Square, a Globe represents Canada’s gift of insulin to the world. Over 460 million people worldwide live with diabetes. Commemorative bricks with messages from donors line the gardens surrounding the home.

The flame of hope was lit by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, during a visit to London in 1989. It is an important reminder that diabetes can only be managed, but provides hope that one day there will be a cure and the flame can be extinguished. 

Help change the lives of those living with or affected by diabetes. Learn more about the disease, volunteer or donate at diabetes.ca.

*Written with information from Diabetes Canada.

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