Sharon Vining: Diabetes Mellitus

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By: N. Tru Bass

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Diabetes is not a new disease.  It has been around for thousands of years. Diabetes is a Greek word which means “siphon”.  Aretus, a Greek physician during 200 AD named it diabainein because the patients passed too much water (polyuria).  The word then became diabetes in English.

Thomas Willis in 1675 then added the word mellitus.  Mel is Latin for “honey”.  People with diabetes have excess glucose so their urine and blood is sweet like honey.

So basically the term diabetes mellitus means “siphoning off sweet water”.

The Chinese observed ants were attracted to some people’s urine because it was sweet.  Therefore, they coined the term “sweet urine disease”.

Insulin is a protein hormone made up of 51 amino acids.  It is made in cells in the Islets of Langerhans in the pancreas. Almost all body cells require insulin in order to use glucose.  Interestingly, brain cells do not need insulin to transport glucose into the cell.  The cells that use the most insulin are the liver, fat and muscle cells.

Beta cells make up about 70 percent of the cells in the Islets of Langerhans and produce the insulin and it is then transported to the blood stream.  The Alpha cells make up about 20 percent of the cells in the Islets and produce glucagon.  

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