(left to right) The Galega officinalis (aka French lilac)was used as a folk remedy for diabetes symptoms for centuries before analysis of its extracts revealed compounds that lowered blood sugar. Eventually, metformin (molecule and pill) was developed. It is a related molecule that is longer acting and less toxic than the plant extracts. Metformin acts on cells in the liver (center and cross-section right) to reduce glucose production and thus blood sugar.
In people with type 2 diabetes, the body is less able to use the hormone insulin to regulate blood sugar. The disease affects 350 million patients globally—including 29 million in the United States, where it is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, and non-accident-related amputations.
A schematic diagram of the mechanisms built into each cell in the in silico hepatocyte cultures. Checkmarks indicate events affected by the physical and chemical properties of a specific virtual drug object. For example, depending on such properties a given drug bound to an enzyme can have a different probability of being metabolized or released. (Source: Drug Metab Dispos. 2011 Oct;39(10):p. 1910-20)
A holy grail of drug discovery is to answer key questions about potential new drugs less by experiments in petri dishes and lab animals and more by faster, cheaper engineering efforts using predictive computer models.
For his historic contributions to what is now known about the rate at which drugs are broken down and "cleared" from the body, Leslie Benet, PhD, was honored by the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (ASCPT) with the Oscar B