Researchers Find New Insights Into Role of Little-Understood Placenta

placenta health illustration

More than 15 percent of women in developed countries suffer from pregnancy complications associated with the placenta, the disk-shaped organ that sustains a growing fetus. Now researchers find the placenta adapts when nutrients are scarce. The discovery identifies possible targets for intervention, the researchers say.

“Pregnancy complications are [often] linked to poor placental growth and function,” said Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri, a physiologist and developmental biologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who led the new research. “However, we lack information on what determines how well the placenta grows and functions to support fetal growth during a healthy pregnancy, let alone when the mother is challenged by a suboptimal environment.”

Pregnancy Problem

The placenta is a temporary organ that sprouts a baby’s umbilical cord. The organ then provides the oxygen and nutrients to the growing fetus. It also synthesizes hormones and other molecules necessary for pregnancy and pulls waste products from the baby’s blood. Beyond these fundamental functions, however, researchers know little about what makes for a healthy placenta. But if a placenta isn’t working properly, it can compromise the fetus’ development.

One in 10 infants are born small from growth restrictions in the womb. And those newborns face a higher risk for death in their first few weeks of life, followed by a lifetime of poor health. Hypoxia, an insufficient amount of oxygen getting to tissues, is the chief factor behind growth-restricted babies born at high-altitudes, but is also a common feature of pregnancy complications at sea level.

Sferruzzi-Perri and her team wanted to find out what factors contribute to a healthy placenta during a normal pregnancy, as well as what hinders the organ’s function during complications. The researchers assessed how well mitochondria, the cell’s energy factories, use oxygen and nutrients to produce energy in the placentas of pregnant mice in their third trimester. Some of the mice lived in conditions that mimic a high-altitude environment about 12,000 feet above sea level.

Mighty Mitochondria

In the final stage of labor, the placenta comes out. (Credit: ChameleonsEye/shutterstock

“We found that in the placenta, mitochondria alter their function during the course of pregnancy to best support the needs of the rapidly growing fetus,” Sferruzzi-Perri said.

The mitochondria used more oxygen in earlier stages of gestation than near term, the team reported online January 17thin the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The results suggest mitochondria are more active when the placenta is growing quickly. It then switches gears closer to term to shuttle oxygen and nutrients to the growing fetus.

The researchers also found that the mitochondria compensate for when mothers are not getting enough to eat or are in low-oxygen environments. “When the placenta is not able to compensate for such challenges then this can lead to complications such as fetal growth restriction,” Sferruzzi-Perri said.

“The next step would be to find ways to target mitochondria in the placenta to alter their function and improve pregnancy success in women where we know the outcome might be poor,” she added.

[“source=discovermagazine”]

Weather And Business: Insights And Ideas For Weathering The Storms

“How about this weather we’re having?” “Can you believe how cold it is?” “The weather made my commute just brutal today!” Weather dominates small talk in the United States, and there has been a lot of research done on how weather influences behavior and emotions. But, weather also has strong financial impact; it is estimated that nearly 20% of the U.S. economy is directly affected by the weather, and it impacts the profitability and revenues of many industries, including agriculture, energy, events, construction, travel and others. In a 1998 testimony to Congress, former commerce secretary William Daley stated, “Weather is not just an environmental issue, it is a major economic factor. At least $1 trillion of our economy is weather-sensitive.”

This regular column will focus on business and its relationship with weather. Our economy is dependent on weather, and increased weather volatility has forced businesses to be more proactive in including weather insights into operational planning.  As weather-forecasting technology continues to improve, businesses are finding it easier to be more proactive in making decisions related to weather.

Of the more than 10,000 practicing meteorologists in the U.S., there is strong representation in the private sector. A meteorologist may be found in a variety of positions, ranging from weather forecasting duties, to non-forecasting roles like sales, marketing and business analytics. The job outlook for meteorologists is estimated to grow by 12%, which is almost 40 percent faster than the national average.

Public safety is a very visible example of weather forecasting for business. But there are many other ways weather plays a role in business. For some companies, it’s about risk management. For retailers, meteorologists help develop strategies that address how weather impacts purchasing trends. Meteorologists can help with business planning and developing strategies for expansion geographies. The impact of weather on business is real, and as forecasting and other technology continues to evolve, the weather-based decision making within business will also evolve.

Top of mind for so many folks right now is winter and safety, particularly as yet another storm rolls into the northeast. Severe weather will impact flights, road traffic, agriculture, the delivery of energy and the general safety of the public. When thinking about the current winter conditions and the impact on traffic and road conditions, it’s expected the plows will keep the roads clear, but there’s a lot of planning needed, not only to effectively keep the roads clear, but to also effectively manage budgets. In Minnesota for example, Anoka County is responsible for keeping 1,100 lane miles of roads clear with the work of 40 full-time, and 20 on-call, maintenance workers. These crews rely on the accuracy of each weather forecast and a big benefit of leveraging those forecasts is the effective use of budgets. Anoka County weather forecasts have specific pavement forecasts, which help the team schedule crews appropriately. The county is required to give night crews a 24-hour notice, and those crews are paid a premium rate for working after hours. Having an accurate forecast helps the department avoid scheduling workers for night shifts unless it’s necessary, ultimately protecting the bottom line.

Pavement forecasts also help the department use other resources efficiently. When freezing rain is predicted, it uses this information to help determine the optimal time to salt the roads, in turn, avoiding unnecessary applications. The department also knows the best time to pretreat roads, allowing it to avoid sending out a second shift which increases safety for everyone on the road. As this story from Anoka County, Minnesota, shows, there are real economic implications to everyday weather events.

[“source=forbes”]

Three Ways To Understand And Apply Social Media Insights To Your Business

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The internet has impacted the way most, if not all, industries have evolved. Keeping up with industry trends and available platforms is a job in and of itself. In particular, social media is shaping the way many companies engage with customers and drive sales.

In the education industry, the internet has revolutionized the way people learn and how they interact with their peers. Based on my experience working with social media influencers to engage students, I’d like to share three tips for entrepreneurs in any industry.

Learn how your target audience is using social media.

You can never stay hot for too long in the world of social media. One minute Snapchat is the app of the hour, the next it’s Instagram, and the cycle continues. Social media has secured credibility in recent years as a trusted source of information not only for news but also as a platform for consumers to engage with companies and exchange information.

My company’s target audience is students, and we have found that students today use social media in ways that are foreign to generations that did not grow up in the digital age. For example, “study with me” videos have become a popular internet sensation among youth. My company decided to capitalize on this opportunity by partnering with YouTube influencers to learn how students are using YouTube to study; we then applied that information to our platform to better help our users succeed academically.

Understanding how your target audience is using and benefiting from social media is critical to success. This applies to any business. Many companies are under the impression that all there is to social media is a simple press of a button to post content, but that’s not where the value lies. Building your presence is important, but understanding why you have that presence will help you properly utilize your channels and benefit in multiple ways.

To do so, connect with your target audience and customers. Create surveys, send personal emails or even make phone calls to understand how your customers are using social media and in what ways your business can have a valuable impact. Get a deeper understanding of your audience behavior and which channels you should focus on.

[“source=forbes]

Analytics, Insights Create Exceptional Donor Experiences

It’s an undeniable fact: The experience you create for donors is directly tied to your ability to retain and upgrade them. According to a recent study by Bloomerang, 46 percent of lapsed donors cited they stopped giving because the organization failed to provide a meaningful experience. Today’s donors want to feel recognized, heard, and valued. They want the same kind of personal and relevant experience they get from other brands on a daily basis.

However, creating that kind of donor experience involves more than just assessing a donor’s wealth and giving history. It also involves creating a complete picture of who they are and how they are engaging with your organization.

The methods of engagement was the topic of a session “The Art and Science of creating meaningful experiences at scale for your high value donors,” presented by Hilary Noon, senior vice president, insight, analytics, and experience at Pursuant and Bente Weitekamp, vice president of development at the Community Health Network Foundation in Indiana during the 2018 Bridge To Integrated Marketing Conference.

For some organizations, that might be understanding your donors’ connections to the mission or understanding when your last point of connection was or how they were impacted by your organization. Described below are a few ways your organization can build more meaningful relationships with your donors by applying what you learn from “listening” to them, according to Noon and Weitekamp.

* Dig Into All of Your Data Sources: Look at all of the data and insights you have about your donors — including information that lives outside of the development department or a structured system. This might include determining if and how they benefited from your organization, event registrations, marketing activity, etc. Tap into anecdotal feedback from your staff and volunteers on the front line who interact regularly with your donors.

Look at online behavior. What are they clicking on? What content are they consuming? What sites are they coming from before they arrive at your page?  Where are they going next?

Using data to find out everything you can about your donors enables you to provide them with an experience that is tailor-made to their specific passions and interests.

* Capture Motivations And Preferences Through Primary Research And Social Insights:One of the simplest ways to listen to your donors is to ask them. There are many mechanisms for doing this including surveys, focus groups and social listening. Surveys that ask donors why they gave, and how and when they’d like to hear from you ensures you’re not bombarding them with information they don’t care about and allows you to avoid wasting money. This is most effectively done as close to a transaction as possible. Just be sure you clearly communicate why you are asking for their feedback and how it will be used. Help them see what is in it for them.

While it might seem like giving donors’ the option to choose how and when they hear from you is giving up control, it often leads to greater response rates and increases the likelihood that the donor will feel more connected with your organization’s brand.

Using a social media monitoring or listening tool will provide insight into what people are saying about your organization, the volume of the buzz and the sentiment associated with your brand. Conversations about specific events or programs that your organization hosts can provide great insights into the experiences people are having and where improvements can be made. Keep in mind that social media is often where people go to share opinions in the extreme so use these tools along with the other tools mentioned to give you a more balanced view.

These tools can give you an important view into the hearts and minds of your donors. The key is to use the information you capture to improve the donor’s experience.

* Create Immersive Experiences That Drive Engagement: Immersive experiences are difficult to offer to all donors. Digital fundraising provides nonprofits with a new opportunity — at scale — to not only engage donors, but “listen” to them based on how they respond and interact.

For organizations that are fortunate to have a bricks and mortar presence, such as a hospital, a school or an arts organization, immersive experiences can be delivered in person. Today, every organization has the opportunity to create similar experiences through an interactive digital campaign that unlocks why donors care about your cause.

It isn’t as easy as simply putting an experience online, however. Gather what data and insights you have about your donors from listening to them and then map out the kind of experience that would be most meaningful to them. Be open to continuously refining and improving upon it as you go forward.

Where and how to start

Before you set out to build a listening program, determine which donors are highest priority to focus on. Prioritizing will allow you to go deep with one segment and improve the likelihood that you will create a relevant experience that will drive results.

The speakers suggested zeroing in on a specific aspect of your priority donors’ experience. Choose something that is meaningful to your organization and where you are most likely to have an impact. Consider choosing an experience that is led by a colleague who really supports your desire to focus on the donor experience.  Having a champion for your work will make the whole effort more enjoyable and will improve the likelihood that you will see positive results.

Transform the Donor Experience

Developing an exceptional experience isn’t just a “nice” thing to do for your donors. It’s one of the leading influencers in their desire to give again. It’s what transforms “transactional” fundraising, where you’re primarily soliciting donations with every touch, into a long-term “transformational” relationship-building approach to fundraising.

Taking the time to consider how your organization can leverage analytics and insights to create a more an intentional and meaningful experience will pay off… for your donors AND your organization.

[“Source-thenonprofittimes”]