I have a task to complete. The enemies are coming in, swarming the channels in millions. I must act. Before the situation causes catastrophe and destruction.
Apologies for getting ahead of myself. Let me introduce myself. I am insulin – a name given to me by your folks, i.e. humans. My kind has been around for thousands of years and we also exist in other living beings such as cows, pigs, monkeys and elephants. My mother, Mrs B, is known to your people as the beta cell. The beta cell is a wonder, a hardworking factory working 24 hours a day and using energy to produce chemicals like me.
Who am I? Why am I here on earth? Unlike human beings, who have not yet figured out even the basics of matters like this, I am clear about these matters. I, insulin, am a protein chain, built of amino acids, and amino acids are built of atoms like carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. I am here to control my enemy, known to you as glucose. Unlike humans, who are predators, I have no desire to eradicate or exterminate my enemy! For I realise that both, I – insulin and my enemy – glucose, are built of atoms like carbon and hydrogen! Also, glucose is an energy-giving friend of the body, and I come into action only when glucose rises to very high levels in the blood.
Apologies once again! I am now falling behind in my storytelling. I must return to the war zone. Glucose molecules are now swarming through the blood vessels. Soon they will begin to damage the tissues of the human body. Our mothers, the beta cells in the abdomen, have now released us (i.e., millions of insulin molecules) into the bloodstream. As I surge ahead, I see my destiny – a small purple cell. Isn’t that a muscle cell? I must induce it to drink glucose and bring down the glucose levels in the blood.
The muscle cell is a huge factory by itself and needs glucose. It has channels through which the glucose can enter. However, these channels have locks and therefore, the muscle cells cannot drink up the glucose in the blood. Fear not! For I, insulin, have the key to these locks. The humans have named these locks after me. They are called the insulin receptors.
There! I have opened the locks. The glucose in the blood is flowing through the channels into the muscles. Millions of my insulin brethren are doing the same in virtually every cell of the body. The glucose levels are now down acceptably. All is well. In a few minutes, I, insulin will die too, destroyed by other molecules which are simply doing their duty.
Some people cannot produce insulin and in some people, the insulin receptors do not work. In those people, the glucose in the blood cannot be controlled and humans call this condition as ‘Diabetes’. People who diet and exercise may be able to improve their Diabetes. But in recent times, the lifestyle of humans is increasing the work pressure on our insulin brethren. This has led to designer insulin being manufactured and injected from outside the body. They are to us like robots are to humans, and we, the body’s insulin welcome the injectable insulin as our siblings.
Wishing you a Diabetes-free life!
Dr Unnikrishnan AG
Editor, writing as “insulin”