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Cure for type 1 diabetes? New business aims at trials

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A new startup company has raised $114 million to develop a treatment for type 1 diabetes.

Semma Therapeutics will use the new funding to begin human trials of their stem cell therapy, which has already been tested on animals.

Semma plans to use stem cells to make beta cells, which manage blood sugar. In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system attacks cells that are responsible for sensing glucose in the blood. Today, management of diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, is done through insulin. However, this new effort would effectively cure type 1 diabetes by replacing the beta cells in the body, which would start the production of insulin.

Diabetes affects more than 300 million Americans. About 1.25 million have type 1.

These new beta cells would be built from embryonic stem cells. Embryonic cells have the potential to become any type of cell found in the body. In this new method, embryonic cells are exposed to growth factor to make them grow into beta cells, according to Business Insider.

Semma would take the newly grown beta cells and insert them into an implant about the size of a plastic bandage. The implant could then be placed under the patient’s skin. Since the cells stay in the device, they wouldn’t interact with the immune system which might kill them. However, they would spark the production of insulin to control blood sugar.

This cell therapy could reach far into medical treatment, creating all sorts of regenerative medicine.

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