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The University of Toronto is responsible for the discovery and development of two fundamental products that have saved or improved the lives of people around the world.
The discovery of insulin was sparked in 1920 by Dr. Frederick Banting’s novel idea for how to isolate the internal secretion of the pancreas. University of Toronto’s Dr. John J. R. Macleod, the leading figure in the study of diabetes in Canada, enabled Banting to pursue his theory with the support of Charles H. Best, and later, biochemist Dr. John B. Collip. The unique perspectives of these individuals, the resources of the university and clinical evaluation at the Toronto General Hospital, all contributed to the historic discovery of the first effective treatment for diabetes.
Toronto was also central to the development of heparin, providing the first reliable and inexpensive means to control blood clotting, making possible a wide range of life-saving surgical interventions.
The heparin project began in 1928-29 and was spearheaded by Dr. Charles H. Best, Head of the Department of Physiology. The first phase involved the production and standardization of a purified product by Dr. Arthur F. Charles and Dr. David A. Scott of Connaught Laboratories. Eventually, Dr. Gordon Murray of Toronto General Hospital began the first human surgical trials of heparin in 1935.
The availability of heparin led to a number of major surgical advancements that were pioneered in Toronto, including the artificial kidney and the biological oxygenator. By the early 1950s, the most significant advances were led by Dr. Wilfred Bigelow – particularly the use of hypothermia to cool the body to enable open-heart surgery, and the invention of the artificial pacemaker.
Sir Frederick Grant Banting was born on November 14, 1891 in Alliston, Ontario. He began his studies at the University of Toronto in divinity, but quickly transferred over to the study of medicine and received his M.B.
John James Rickard Macleod was born at Cluny, near Dunkeld, Perthshire, Scottland on September 6th, 1876. He obtained his medical degree with honours from the University of Aberdeen in 1898 and began his career at the Institute for Ph
James Bertram Collip (November 20, 1892 - June 19th, 1965) was born in Belleville, Ontario. H
Wilfred Gordon “Bill” Bigelow was born in 1913 in Brandon, Manitoba, and graduated from the University of Toronto with an arts degree in the Biological and Medical Sciences program in 1935. Immediately following, he entered medical school, recei
Toronto was central to the development of heparin, providing the first reliable and inexpensive means to control blood clotting, making possible for a wide range of life-saving surgical interventions.
In November of 1920, 29-year-old University of Toronto graduate and demonstrator at the University of Western Ontario, Frederick Grant Banting, met with John James Rickard Macleod, then a physiology professor at the university and international expert on diabetes and carbohydrate metabolism. Banting wanted to discuss a theory he had regarding the islets of Langerhans of the pancreas and whether they might give off an internal secretion somehow related to diabetes. Macleod encouraged Banting to explore this theory, but warned him that it would be at the expense of all his free time.
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