(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.
Spiked rods of uric acid crystals from synovial fluid photographed under a microscope with polarized light. In patients with gout, such crystals can accumulate in the joints, causing pain and inflammation.
Allopurinol, the first-choice medication for treating gout—an excruciatingly painful condition that is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis, afflicts more than eight million Americans, and is on the rise worldwide—is not fully effective in more than half of patients.