New England Journal of Medicine Looks at 200 Years of Diabetes

The most recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine includes a free-access review article on "The Past 200 Years of Diabetes" authored by Dr. Kenneth S. Polonsky. It is historically informative and enjoyable, even as it wavers between optimism and pessimism.

It begins by ringing a very pessimistic bell:

"If one views diabetes from a public health and overall societal standpoint, little progress has been made toward conquering the disease during the past 200 years, and we are arguably worse off now than we were in 1812."

(1812, by the way, is the year that the NEJM was launched.)

In tracing the history of the disease, Dr. Polonsky goes back to its discovery by ancient Egyptians, its naming by the Greek physician Aretaeus, and its clinical documentation in 1776.

He also explores the scientific basis under modern treatment modalities, the impact of the discovery of insulin, the pathogenesis of diabetes (meaning the actual development of the disease within a patient), its worldwide prevalence, the role of genetics, as well as the work towards better treatment options and prevention.

Fortunately for the less dour-minded among us, Dr. Polonsky winds up the article on a positive note:

"Although the challenges are still substantial, if we build on past accomplishments, there is every reason for optimism that another breakthrough as dramatic as the discovery of insulin will occur in the foreseeable future, with a similarly dramatic impact."

Unlike most articles that appear in the NEJM, this one is actually informative, readable and digestible by us folks in the lay public. Some might even find it enjoyable.

To read Dr. Polonsky's article, click HERE.

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