Semma reports advances in turning stem cells into insulin producers, reported by Arlene Weintraub for, 10 May 2019. 

Harvard University scientist Douglas Melton started Semma Therapeutics in 2017, to take undifferentiated pluripotent stem cells and turn them into insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells. Problem was, only 30% of the cells that emerged from the transformation process Melton’s lab developed turned out to be functioning beta cells. Now, his team of researchers says they figured out how to improve their process so they can increase the proportion of beta cells to 80%. They published their findings in the journal Nature.

Improvements in single-cell gene sequencing made it possible for Melton’s lab to probe all of the cells they were making from stem cells as they tried to transform them into beta cells. They discovered wide variations in gene expression among the cells. Some expressed genes consistent with glucagon production, while others had gene-expression patterns consistent with the sought-after insulin-producing beta cells.  The researchers also found a protein that’s expressed only on beta cells. That discovery allowed them to develop a hook method that could “fish” beta cells out of the mixture of cells that emerged from their process.


Scientists at Semma developed a second method to further boost the population of beta cells. They hypothesized that hormone-producing cells would be more attracted to each other than they are to non-hormone producers. So they physically separated all the cells and let them cluster back together naturally. It worked: The clustering further enriched the number of beta cells in each sample of converted stem cells, they reported.

Read more: Semma reports advances in turning stem cells into insulin producers

Want to Stave Off Type 1 Diabetes? Beta Cell Proliferation May Be the Key, according to a piece from JDRF International, 6 May 2019. 

In Nature Metabolism, JDRF-funded researchers, including the lead author, Ercument Dirice, Ph.D., and senior author, Rohit Kulkarni, M.D., Ph.D., found an unidentified piece of information: By enhancing beta cell mass secondary to a robust beta cell proliferation early in life, they could protect mice from developing type 1 diabetes (T1D). The researchers, however, wanted to know if inducing beta cell proliferation, before the immune attack, would provide protection against T1D development. They found that, upon enhancement, they could alter the identity of beta cells and make immune cells less likely to attack and kill the beta cells. Underlying this was the influx of regulatory immune cells—which maintain the balance of the immune system by controlling the activity of self-damaging immune cells—to the point where they could prevent the progression of T1D.

Read more: Beta Cell Proliferation May Be the Key

Auxulin: Hyperglycemic Innovation Driven by Need was reported by Martin Hensel for, 16 May 2019.  Auxulin was founded to market a new drug that alleviates hyperglycemic episodes. 

The founders of Auxulin stumbled on a variation of a prescription drug that is off-patent and not widely used. “Technically, this is a new use of an old drug. We’re taking an old drug that is off-patent, changing the formulation, and using it for something different.”  The drug is taken orally.  It slashes the time it takes for my blood sugar to return to normal: 45 minutes, rather than the two to three hours. Further, it stops the feeling of hyperglycemic nausea within 15 minutes.

“People with T1D can become resistant to their injected insulin during hyperglycemic episodes. The higher the blood sugar level, the more likely the body is to become insulin-resistant. Further, the longer a diabetic is hyperglycemic, the greater their risk of hospitalization and developing dangerous long-term complications. 

In addition to the reduction in time to get blood sugar back to normal, Auxulin may reduce insulin usage, a potentially important benefit given the rising costs of insulin medications, but it is not a replacement for daily insulin maintenance.

Since the drug is available and already proven safe, the Auxulin team expects to get a 505(b)(2) designation that would speed the process of getting a new use approved for an existing drug. Limited human testing for this new use could begin immediately. It is estimated that it will take $35 million to fund drug development through Phase III trials and FDA submission.

Read more: Auxulin: Hyperglycemic Innovation Driven by Need

Hillo to Remove Burden from your Life using Predictive BG and Insulin Dosing customized to each patient’s physiology and habits, reported by Martin Hensel of, 14 May 2019. 

Their method combines pharmacokinetic and data-driven modeling.  Their goal is to extend the horizon for effective recommendations, and we have currently achieved a 2-hour horizon for accurate BG prediction. Integrating a heart rate monitor into the data-driven model is an example of how personal activity data could help adjust BG predictions and associated insulin dosing recommendations.

According to Stephane Bidet, CEO, and Nicolas Caleca, CSO of the Paris-based Hillo, “Our approach is in contrast to the established artificial pancreas models which focus primarily on pharmacokinetic modeling. Their descriptive models have a 30-minute horizon for confident BG prediction.”

Read more: Hillo to Offer Customized Predictive BG and Insulin Dosing

Wearable Heart Monitor Detects T1D Hypoglycemia … Heart rate variability occurs with hypoglycemia, used for early warning to people with impaired awareness of hypoglycemia … as reported by Martin Hensel for, 9 May 2019.

Mats Koeneman, MSc and Technical Physician with the REshape Center for Innovation at Radboud University Medical Center, The Netherlands co-authored a recent study in Diabetes Journal: “One of the most common adverse events seen in patients with type 1 diabetes is hypoglycemia because injected insulin is not subject to normal physiological feedback regulation.  On average, people with T1D have about two symptomatic hypoglycemia episodes each week.”

The study concluded that: “Changes in HRV (heart rate variability) at the beginning of hypoglycemia could be detected by a wearable device to prevent a severe hypoglycemic event.”

Read more: Wearable Heart Monitor Detects T1D Hypoglycemia


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