(Dr. Bones says: Originally published in somewhat different form in 2011, this is a supplement to my 5-part series on Diabetes and Survival. The final part of the series (natural remedies for Diabetes) will be published in the next day or two.)
Type I Diabetes and Making Insulin
One of the questions I am asked most often is how to deal with Type 1 diabetics (Insulin-dependent) in a long-term survival scenario. There is a story about how home-made Insulin was produced in Japanese-occupied Singapore during WWII. I have been unable to find the specific process used there, but I have come upon a lecture by one of the scientists who first produced Insulin in the lab. This occurred in 1922, and the lecture is from that era. The material used was the pancreatic organs of cows and pigs. I will add some comments below the transcript of the lecture.
Here it is:
“The present method of preparation is as follows. The beef or pork pancreas is finely minced in a larger grinder and the minced material is then treated with 5 c.c. of concentrated sulphuric acid, appropriately diluted, per pound of glands. The mixture is stirred for a period of three or four hours and 95% alcohol is added until the concentration of alcohol is 60% to 70%. Two extractions of the glands are made. The solid material is then partially removed by centrifuging the mixture and the solution is further clarified by filtering through paper. The filtrate is practically neutralized with Sodium Hydroxide. The clear filtrate is concentrated in vacuo to about 1/15 of its original volume.
The concentrate is then heated to 50o degrees Centigrade, which results in the separation of lipoid and other materials, which are removed by filtration. Ammonium sulphate (37 grams. per 100 c.c.) is then added to the concentrate and a protein material containing all the Insulin floats to the top of the liquid. The precipitate is skimmed off and dissolved in hot acid alcohol. When the precipitate has completely dissolved, 10 volumes of warm alcohol are added. The solution is then neutralized with NaOH and cooled to room temperature, and kept in a refrigerator at 5oC for two days. At the end of this time the dark coloured supernatant alcohol is decanted off. The alcohol contains practically no potency. The precipitate is dried in vacuo to remove all trace of the alcohol. It is then dissolved in acid water, in which it is readily soluble. The solution is made alkaline with NaOH to PH 7.3 to 7.5. At this alkalinity a dark coloured precipitate settles out, and is immediately centrifuged off. This precipitate is washed once or twice with alkaline water of PH 9.0 and the washings are added to the main liquid.
It is important that this process be carried out fairly quickly as Insulin is destroyed in alkaline solution. The acidity is adjusted to PH 5.0 and a white precipitate readily settles out. Tricresol is added to a concentration of 0.3% in order to assist in the isoelectric precipitation and to act as a preservative. After standing one week in the ice chest the supernatant liquid is decanted off and the resultant liquid is removed by centrifuging. The precipitate is then dissolved in a small quantity of acid water.
A second isoelectric precipitation is carried out by adjusting the acidity to a PH of approximately 5.0. After standing over night the resultant precipitate is removed by centrifuging. The precipitate, which contains the active principle in a comparatively pure form, is dissolved in acid water and the hydrogen ion concentration adjusted to PH 2.5. The material is carefully tested to determine the potency and is then diluted to the desired strength of 10, 20, 40 or 80 units per c.c. Tricresol is added to secure a concentration of 0.1 percent. Sufficient sodium chloride is added to make the solution isotonic. The Insulin solution is passed through a Mandler filter. After passing through the filter the Insulin is retested carefully to determine its potency. There is practically no loss in berkefelding. The tested Insulin is poured into sterile glass vials with aseptic precautions and the sterility of the final product thoroughly tested by approved methods.”
Making Insulin is Not Easy
When I first published this article in 2011, my first impression was (and still is): It will be nearly impossible to put together the chemicals necessary to produce Insulin as described above, not to mention the power to run centrifuges and other lab equipment. In fact, you almost need a degree in Chemistry to even read the above. Bottom line: Your kid’s chemistry set isn’t going to help much.
It seems clear to me that perfect control of our Type 1 diabetics will be highly unlikely, but it may be possible to prevent life-threatening glucose levels as seen in Diabetic Ketoacidosis. Consider stockpiling oral medications such as Metformin in the highest doses available, and place your diabetics on these when the Insulin runs out. These medicines help counteract Insulin resistance, and what little Insulin your diabetics produce naturally may have more of an effect to lower blood sugars. This, unfortunately, won’t work if the body produces no Insulin at all.
Strict dietary restriction barely enough to maintain weight will also be necessary, in the form of frequent, very small protein-rich meals. Maintain a reasonable level of activity, and hope for society to re-stabilize. Type 1 diabetics will have difficulty staying healthy in a long term off-grid situation. Many type 2 diabetics, however, might actually improve from the limited caloric intake and the increased physical exertion involved in daily survival.
Part 5 of “Diabetes and Survival” will discuss the most promising natural remedies to treat diabetes. These include trace elements, vitamins, and herbs. I can’t promise you glucose control, however; The FDA still does not recognize any natural supplement as both safe and effective in treating diabetes.
With regards to major medical issues such as Diabetes, we will be between a rock and a hard place. We will have to improvise in an effort to keep our people reasonably stable. In a collapse, we will have to realize that, sometimes, something is better than nothing.
For my series on Diabetes and Survival, go to Part 1 by clicking the link below:
Are you ready to deal with medical issues in a disaster? With the Second Edition of “The Survival Medicine Handbook”, you’ll get a head start on keeping it together, even if things fall apart! See the book trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Umecjhnxs9w