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A "sickly sweet" disease

Type 2 diabetes mellitus is one of the most common illnesses in Germany. This condition is characterised by the body cells no longer responding to insulin, which is a hormone produced by the body. Because of this resistance, insulin is no longer able to channel the sugar out of the blood and into the body cells. The result is a very elevated blood sugar level.


Our new "Mysteries of science" shows a typical phenomenon of precisely this disease. The photograph was taken by Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson, who shows the world of medicine from a point of view usually reserved for scientists. Guess what the photograph shows; we'll give you a small clue in the blog post. The solution will be given in the next "Mysteries of science" post from Boehringer Ingelheim – including new, unusual images from the microscopic universe of Lennart Nilsson. We look forward to your interpretations of this scientific picture mystery.

Section title

Diabetes mellitus is one of the oldest documented diseases.

The first records are from an Indian doctor and date from the 6th century BC. Ancient Greeks and Romans also knew the disease. The descriptions are all very similar, with reference to sugar or honey urine. Accordingly, diabetes mellitus literally means 'honey-sweet flow'.


Diabetes mellitus is a chronic metabolic disease that leads to high blood sugar levels. In the long term, the high blood sugar damages blood vessels and nerves, which can cause numerous organ problems. Secondary diseases resulting from diabetes include heart attacks, strokes, renal failure and retinal damage, among many others.


The different types


Whereas type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that causes the body's immune system to destroy the cells that produce insulin, which are located in the pancreas, type 2 diabetes has a mostly genetic basis. The body cells develop a resistance to the body's own hormone insulin.


The role of insulin is to channel the sugar out of the blood and into the body cells. However, where there is resistance, the body will reject the insulin and therefore also the transported sugar. The sugar then stays in the blood, leading to an increased sugar concentration. The pancreas initially reacts to the insulin-rejecting body cells with an overproduction. After a few years, however, the insulin production decreases and the blood sugar level rises further.


Type 2 diabetes can initially be treated with lifestyle changes. This includes a lot of physical activity, a healthy diet and, if necessary, weight loss. Medication that improves the effect of insulin or stimulates its production also helps.


Focus of research at Boehringer Ingelheim


Type 2 diabetes is one of the focal points of Boehringer Ingelheim's research. Thanks to our many years of experience in the treatment of cardio-metabolic diseases, we have been able to help millions of patients with potentially life-threatening cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. In recent years, our research and development efforts have led to important successes, especially with regard to thromboembolic diseases and type 2 diabetes.


In the areas of cardiovascular diseases (atherosclerosis and peripheral artery disease) and chronic renal diseases, we focus on the development of treatment methods that can positively influence the course of these life-threatening diseases. In the case of metabolic diseases, our focus is on new concepts for the treatment of diabetes, diabetic retinopathy, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and obesity. In combination with the treatment of high blood pressure, these treatments complement each other to reduce the risk of cardiovascular mortality and morbidity.

Boehringer Ingelheim
Around 300 scientists are working in our fully integrated research and development centre for cardio-metabolic diseases at the Biberach, Germany and Ridgefield, USA sites. The company has extensive knowledge in the identification of new chemical active ingredients and works with numerous partners from science and industry on new treatment methods to cover constantly changing, unmet medical needs.
Mysteries of science – the solution! Last but not least, we still owe you the solution to our last 'Mysteries of science' post: surely you remember the blue, coral-like shape on the last Lennart Nilsson photo? What looks like a deep-sea photograph is in fact the bronchial mucosa of a smoker; the photograph was of the cilia. Cilia are tiny hairs that cover our airways like a thick lawn. Their role is to transport the mucus that coats our lungs and catches foreign particles such as pollen, dust or disease agents, to the throat. There, it mixes with saliva and is swallowed, unnoticed, along with all the foreign particles captured. Together, mucus and cilia form a very effective shield which constantly cleans our airways and removes foreign particles.
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Smoking, however, destroys these cilia. On the photograph, you can clearly see the difference between the long, intact little hairs and the cilia stumps, which look shaved off. If the cilia are destroyed, foreign particles and hazardous substances can no longer be removed the bronchial system. Smoker's cough and the related brown mucus are a first sign of the destruction of cilia.

1 comment(s) for 'A "sickly sweet" disease '


These are the Maltese cross-like crystals characteristic of nephrotic syndrome seen in the urinary sediment under phase contrast microscopy,

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