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Wednesday, 16 June 2010

It's Diabetes week - let's talk insulin wallpaper!

It is diabetes week (at least, it is according to Diabetes UK, which is good enough for me) so today’s post is inspired by the complex, and somewhat inspiring, structure of insulin.  I am talking X-ray Crystallography-inspired 1950s wallpaper!  Dorothy Hodgkin pioneered this technique of X-ray crystallography and created a contour map of insulin from the resulting scans, which, from afar, looks like a collection of rosettes, but in fact details a complex hormone that captured Dorothy’s imagination. 

This drawing and her other atomic diagrams inspired simplified patterns that adorned wallpapers, furnishing, carpets and dress fabrics at the 1951 Festival of Britain.

Insulin has many wide-ranging affects on the body; it influences many bodily functions such as protein synthesis, vascular compliance (the blood vessels’ response to blood pressure) and cognition (thinking, concentration and memory) and is crucial in the control of diabetes.  Insulin causes your body’s cells to take up glucose and store it as glycogen which can later be used for energy.  Without insulin the body uses fat as its source of energy and the glucose level rises, in turn, this system of maintaining glucose and insulin in the body gets out-of-whack (a technical term, I assure you), which is why those with type-1 diabetes have to inject themselves subcutaneously with insulin in order to keep the this system in check.

So, from the islets of langerhans* to the decor of a 1950s festival, insulin is not only pretty useful but is also just plain pretty.
*sounds like a pacific resort but is in fact where insulin is produced in the pancreas

A creation of the 'Festival Pattern Group' project at the 1951 Festival of Britain
Do your bit this diabetes week and learn more about what it is and check out the cool* video at the bottom of the link to find out insulin's role in the body.  Diabetes UK
*this is a lie, it is fairly standard and in no way demonstrates what "cool" implies


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  2. Great post, really interesting to read, keep up the good work.