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July 1, 2000

Insulin

Question from Melbourne, Australia:

My cousin has diabetes are we were wondering how the regulation of glucose homeostasis is affected by injecting insulin into the blood.

Answer:

In diabetes, insulin is seldom injected into the blood stream unless the person is in diabetic ketoacidosis. In routine use however, it does have to be given by injection beneath the skin. From there, it is absorbed into the blood stream at a rate that depends on the kind of insulin. It is then distributed to all the cells in the body. On the surface of these cells there are special sites called insulin receptors which attach to the insulin. This activates the site and enables it to increase the entry of glucose into the cell to be used in energy production. In this way injected insulin lowers blood sugar and moves glucose into the cell. This description is a considerable oversimplification of a very complex procedure; but I hope it will help.

DOB