HEALTH

Study: Growth factor TGF-B helps maintain health of retinal blood vessels

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK Scientists at Schepens Eye Research Institute have found that the growth factor known as TGF-? is essential to the health of blood vessels in the retina and that blocking it can cause retinal dysfunction.

These findings, published in the April 2 issue of PLoS ONE, may have an important impact on the prevention and treatment of diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.

“These results are significant because they add to our understanding of the molecules that help to maintain blood vessels in a healthy state,” says Patricia D’Amore, PhD, senior scientist at Schepens and principal investigator of the study, who added that this information may be useful in understanding the changes that occur in the retinal microvasculature prior to the development of proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

“Insight into the role of this growth factor may also help clinicians monitor the use of systemic drugs targeting TGF-?, which is elevated in a number of conditions (such as cancer and fibrotic diseases) to limit any vision problems that might occur as a side effects,” said Tony Walshe, PhD, the first author of the study and a Postdoctoral Fellow in the D’Amore’s laboratory team.

Capillaries are the smallest blood vessels in the body and the site at which oxygen and nutrients are transferred from the blood to the tissues. A capillary is composed of an endothelial cell, which forms the lining of the small tube, and a pericyte, which wraps around the outside of the tube. Scientists have long believed that communication between these two cell types is necessary to maintain blood vessel structure and function.

According to Walshe, the goal of the study was to determine if TGF-? plays a role in keeping blood vessels functioning normally. In previous experiments using tissue cultures, the D’Amore laboratory had identified TGF-? as a protein that results from the communication between the two cell types and which they use to maintain the health of the small blood vessels. In the current study, the team wanted to confirm that finding in animals.

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FMI to present recession spending trends report at conference

BY Michael Johnsen

ARLINGTON, Va. The Food Marketing Institute will release its latest research on how the recession impacts consumer shopping at the supermarket and how that behavior affects retailer sales and operations at the FMI Future Connect conference in Dallas, the association announced Wednesday.

Today’s consumer is enormously focused on price and value, FMI stated. The Trends 2009 report provides insights into the extent this new thriftiness is impacting grocery shopping, trip frequency and spending. The survey covers money-saving measures in great depth including a wide range of measures both pre-trip and in the store.

Many also fear the negative impact of the recession on health and wellness. Trends will address shoppers’ interest in products that promote good health and nutrition and the extent to which they are succeeding in eating healthfully.

The food recalls of the past year have tested consumer confidence in the nation’s food supply. FMI research will show whether consumers think the food they buy in supermarkets and restaurants is safe and whom they trust to sell safe products.

The Speaks report will detail sales, same-store sales and profits for the retail food industry and feature an in-depth analysis of profit leaders. Speaks will provide retailer insights about private brands and the advertising changes they are making due to the recession.

Speaks will also look at the sustainability strategies retailers are putting in place and how they are incorporating health and wellness initiatives throughout the store.FMI’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2009 and The Food Retailing Industry Speaks 2009, two reports on consumer trends and retailer insights, will be presented by FMI president and CEO Leslie Sarasin, during a special session at Future Connect, The Food Retailing Industry Speaks, on May 4 at 1:15 p.m.

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Novo Nordisk Changing Diabetes Barometer Web site goes live

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK In March 2007, at the Changing Diabetes Leadership Forum in New York, Novo Nordisk president and CEO Lars Rebien Sorensen announced that his company would seek to “turn on the lights” in the fight against diabetes.

The company kept its promise with the launch Thursday of the Changing Diabetes Barometer Web site, at www.changingdiabetesbarometer.com, Sorensen wrote in a letter to Novo Nordisk employees to coincide with the launch.

The site contains data on the state of diabetes care in more than 100 countries around the world, gathered by employees from more than 70 affiliates.

“Data will continually be added to The Changing Diabetes Barometer website so that we always know the status of prevention, progress and treatment on international, national and local levels,” Sorensen wrote.

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