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Is Insulin Made from Pigs?

Why Are Pigs used for Insulin

Is Insulin Made from Pigs? Why Are Pigs used for Insulin

Why Are Pigs used for Insulin? It starts when a whole bunch of pig pancreas is picked up from the slaughterhouses. From there, it is a matter of separating the insulin from the pancreas, and then purifying the insulin. It is the simplest explanation for getting insulin from the pigs. (As of 2017 – 1.25 Million Need Insulin, Increasing by 40,000 per Year)

A huge amount of pigs are required for a very small amount of insulin to get it extracted from the pigs.

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It was thought that almost 2 tons of pigs’ parts were required to produce just eight ounces of purified insulin.

Is Insulin Made from Pigs? 1
insulin made from pigs

Nowadays, the insulin that comes in vials, pens, and pumps is not from pigs and cows rather is generated from designer microorganisms. The insulin of microorganisms is of more similarities to that of the human insulin of millions of people across the globe who depend upon a steady stream of high-quality protein. Is Insulin Made from Pigs

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Difference Between Animal-sourced Insulin and Human insulin

Insulin, which is both hormone and protein, is a balled-up string of chemicals called amino acids. There are twenty common amino acids, such as tryptophan, that combine end to end to make proteins.

Like letters in a word, the order and number of amino acids in the proteins are what define it. The human insulin sequence of fifty-one amino acids differs from that of pork insulin by single amino acids and by three amino acids in beef insulin.

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is insulin made from pigs

What is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone that is produced by beta cells in the pancreas of our body.

These beta cells manufacture and release the insulin in our blood so that it may circulate and allow glucose to enter and fuel the cell.

As such, when insulin enters the cells, the remaining supply of glucose in our blood decreases. That is, the presence of insulin in our body has the effect of lowering blood glucose. Insulin also controls other aspects of metabolism that are required by the body to sustain its life, such as converting fat into glucose and glucose into fats.

Use of Insulin for Diabetic Patients

       Diabetes (diabetes mellitus) is a term used for describing the higher than normal glucose level in the blood. There are different causes and types of diabetes mellitus, but all of them have a common abnormality of a high level of glucose in the blood.

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does insulin come from pigs

Since the presence of insulin in the blood lowers the glucose level, insulin injections are used to control high glucose levels. Failure to control glucose levels leads to complications such as loss of vision, disease of the arteries, the kidneys, and the heart.

        Insulin is the absolute requirement when treating type-1 diabetes mellitus, while in type-2 patients insulin is used when other sources of treatment such as diet and pills, are insufficient and are of no longer work.

What are animal-sourced insulin and human biosynthetic insulin?

Two Types of Insulin

  1. Animal sourced
  2. Biosynthetic insulin


Insulin was originally derived from the pancreas of pigs and cows. Animal-sourced insulin is prepared from preparations of pork and beef pancreas and has been used safely to manage diabetes for many years. Except for beef or pork insulin, which is no longer available, they are still being used safely today.

Over the years, insulin products have evolved; this evolution includes the development of biosynthetic human insulin and insulin analogs. The biosynthetic insulin, its analogs, and its derivatives are produced via gene technologies. These biosynthetic forms of insulin have been authorized for use, in some form, and be safe, effective and of high quality for treating both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Availability of Animal-sourced Insulin 

         The availability of animal-sourced insulin was raised when the issue was presented to the House of Commons Standing Committee on health in 2003. During these sessions, witnesses presented the perspective of affected individuals and the pharmaceutical industry.

It was stated some patients required animal-source insulin to manage their diabetes. The outcome of the hearing identified the continuous reduction in the availability of animal insulin products as a major concern for committee members. Proactive measures were taken to ensure that the animal-sourced products remain available to those patients who need them.

Why has the Availability of Animal-Sourced Insulin Products Decreased Worldwide?

               With the advances in recombinant and biosynthetic human insulin products, manufacturers have focused on the production and sales of recombinant or biosynthetic human insulin. Thus, the use of animal insulin has declined.

Also, the production of animal-sourced insulin has become globally more complex as a result of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy issues related to the raw animal tissues used to make animal-source insulins.  

Although the majority of patients with diabetes now use biosynthetic human insulin or insulin analogs, there remain a small number of patients with diabetes who cannot manage their disease with biosynthetic insulin and are concerned over the availability of animal-sourced insulin for the future.

Cost of Insulin

Reasons Why Animal Protein is not Used; 

As the insulin from a pig is different in composition at a single amino acid site in its long strand and cow source is different at three sites or to say the simple position of amino acids differs in a long strand of amino acid in different sourced proteins.

As the human immune system is a fastidious fact-checker, and the body is strong enough to recognize insulin as a foreign body particle. Some people with diabetes develop immune reactions to pork and beef insulin, and over time the insulin becomes less effective. And manufacturers needed a more sustainable process.

Effects of Animal-sourced Insulin

The use of pig insulin is out of favor these days, and almost all the insulin used is human insulin that is produced by genetically engineered bacteria.

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is insulin still made from pigs

The worst insulin used for producing complicated allergies is beef insulin.

Pork insulin causes fewer insulin allergies, and human insulin causes none.  

Pig Pancreas Cells Transplants

Obtaining Insulin from Pork

Most people probably view pigs at best as a source of sustenance or at worst, as filthy and greedy animals. But it seems as our porcine pals may also provide invaluable in the fight against type 1 diabetes.

Researchers are experimenting with new ways of harvesting insulin-producing islet cells from pigs and transplanting them into people living with diabetes in the hope of one day reducing the need for daily insulin shots and even replacing them with twice-yearly islet cell treatments.

               In type 1 diabetes the immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas. Therapy is being developed in which insulin-producing porcine islet cells in the pancreas are implanted in a person’s peritoneum from an external catheter bag via a tube inserted into the stomach.  

               Human to human islet transplants can work, but there is not a commercial opportunity there because of limited access to the pancreas.

This scarcity means millions of people do not have access to islet transplants that could bring their diabetes under control.

Micro Islet’s Cell Encapsulation 

In the micro islet encapsulation method, the porcine islet cells are isolated from the human immune system using an alginate shell so they can produce insulin when needed without being destroyed by human antibodies.

Nutrients such as insulin, glucose, and oxygen can diffuse freely through the alginate.

Micro Islet Cautions 

Micro islet cautions include, while it believes xenotransplantation can be a therapeutic solution for some people with diabetes worldwide, it will not likely replace insulin injections for all diabetic sufferers. The transplant procedure may not be suitable for some people with diabetes, and others may still have to take insulin injections.

Micro islets have tested their procedure on normal rodents and those with the defective immune system and are currently studying potentially toxic side effects. Initial rodent studies were designed to look at the efficacy and duration of the implants.

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does insulin contain pork / how is insulin made from pigs

Insulin Uses 

        Insulin regular is used with a proper diet and exercise program to control high blood sugar in people with diabetes. Controlling high blood sugar helps prevent kidney damages, blindness, nerve problems, loss of limbs, and sexual function problems. Proper control of diabetes may also lessen your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

              The insulin is obtained from pigs and similar to human insulin. It replaces the insulin that your body would normally make. It is a short-acting insulin. It works by helping blood sugar get into cells so your body can use it for energy. This medication is usually used in combination with a medium or long-acting insulin product. This medication may also be used alone or with other oral diabetes drugs.

Manufacturing Insulin Largest Manufacturer in the World / is insulin still made from pigs?

How to use Purified Pork Insulin Solution

Read the patient information leaflet provided by your pharmacist before you start using this medication, and each time you get a refill. If you have any questions, ask your doctor, diabetes educator, or pharmacist.

Learn all preparations and usage instructions from your healthcare professional and the product package.

              Before using, check this product visually for particles or discoloration. It either is present, do not use the insulin. Insulin regular should be clear and colorless.

Before injecting each dose, clean the injection site by rubbing the alcohol. Change where you inject each time to lessen the risk of problems or damage under the skin. Insulin regular may be injected in the stomach area, the thigh, the buttocks, or the back of the upper arm.

Do not inject into a vein because a very low blood sugar level may occur. Do not rub the area for injection. Do not inject into skin that is red, swollen, itchy, or damaged. Do not inject cold insulin because this can be painful. The insulin container that you are currently using can be kept at room temperature.

          Inject this medication under the skin as directed by your doctor, usually within 30 to 60 minutes before a meal or immediately after a meal. Because this insulin is fast-acting, not eating right after a dose of this insulin may lead to a low blood sugar level (hypoglycemia).

              Giving insulin regularly into a vein should only be done by a health care professional. Very low blood sugar levels may result.

          This product may be mixed only with certain other insulin products such as NPH insulin (pork). Always draw the insulin regularly into the syringe first, then follow with other longer-acting insulin. Never inject a mixture of different insulin into veins.

Consult your health care professionals about which products may be mixed, the proper method of mixing the insulin, and the proper way to inject mixtures of insulin. Do not mix insulins if you are using an insulin pump.

        The dosage is based on your medical condition and response to treatment. Measure each dose very carefully because even small changes in the amount of insulin may have a large effect on your blood sugar.

               Check your blood sugar regularly as directed by your doctor. Keep track of your results and share them with your doctor. 

This is Very Important to Determine the Correct Insulin Dose.

             Use this medication regularly to get the most benefit from it. To help you remember, use it at the same time each day.

Human Insulin may be Better than Animal insulin. 

                 Human insulin has been shown to have significant advantages over beef and pork extracted insulins. Patients who have switched to human insulin have shown a significant decrease in anti-insulin antibody levels, making it easier to manage insulin allergies. Many people are also able to absorb it better than animal insulins. And there is another advantage.

Recombinant DNA insulin costs about 40% of what purified pork insulin costs, but it is still more expensive than mixtures containing beef and pork insulin.

Drawback / Short Activity

            One drawback is that human insulin seems to have a shorter period for activity. Therefore, patients being switched from animal to human insulin must be monitored carefully. Many diabetic specialists agree that human insulin should always be considered.

Pigs Being Used for Cancer Research / Growing Organs for Transplants / how to extract insulin from pigs

Farm / Miniture Pig Table 13 Breeds

Breed of PigMature Weight LifespanFeed Per DayCost
Yorkshire450 - 650 lbs15 - 20 years6-8 lbs$ 60 - $ 100
Red Tamworth (Bacon Pigs)500 - 600 lbs15 - 20 years6-8 lbs$ 60 - $ 100
Duroc500 - 600 lbs15 - 20 years6-8 lbs$ 60 - $ 100
Berkshire600 lbs15 - 20 years6-8 lbs$ 60 - $ 100
Hampshire500 lbs15 - 20 years6-8 lbs$ 60 - $ 100
Saddleback600 lbs15 - 20 years6-8 lbs$ 60 - $ 100
Potbelly pigs150 lbs15 - 20 years3-4 lbs$ 300 - $ 1000
American Mini70 - 150 lb15 - 20 years3-4 lbs$ 300 - $ 1000
Mulefoot - Mini60 - 110 lbs15 - 20 years3-4 lbs$ 300 - $ 1000
Ossabaw Island Hog100 - 150 lbs15 - 20 years3-4 lbs$ 300 - $ 1000
American Guinea Hog150 - 300 lbs15 - 20 years3-4 lbs$ 300 - $ 1000
KuneKune Breed140 - 220 lbs15 - 20 years3-4 lbs$ 300 - $ 1000
Meishan Breed150 lbs15 - 20 years3-4 lbs$ 300 - $ 1000

World Pig Breeder Associations

Pig AssociationLocationLink
National Swine RegistryUnited StatesNSR
American BerkshireIllinoisAB
Livestock ConservancyNorth CarolinaLC
American Mini Pig AssociationUnited StatesAMPA
Southern California Association of Pot Bellied PigsCaliforniaSCAPBP
British Pig AssociationUKBPA
National Pig AssociationUKNPA
Canadian Swine Breeders AssociationsCanadaCSBA
Australian Pig Breeders AssociationsAustraliaAPBA