Nestle to study diet-disease link by testing foods on human cells



Nestle SA, the maker of Gerber baby food and Nescafe instant coffee, is deepening its research into the link between diet and disease with an unusual biotechnology partnership that it hopes will help it develop more profitable products.

Under the deal, Nestle will obtain brain and liver cells from Cellular Dynamics International Inc. and study how nutrients found in foods affect these human cells, according to Emmanuel Baetge, director of the Nestle Institute of Health Sciences, a research arm of the Swiss company. Nestle aims to use the insights to develop nutritionally enhanced drinks, smoothies and other products that it can market as having medical benefits.

The companies are expected to announce their agreement this week. They wouldn't disclose the financial terms.

CDI Chief Executive Robert Palay said 18 of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies buy its cells, but that Nestle is the first food company to do so. CDI makes brain, liver and other cells from stem-cell-like cells, which are in turn made from mature human cells.

Nestle scientists have begun studying the CDI cells to see how the fatty acids found in avocados and olive oil interact with neurons, with the hope of finding applications for aging consumers, Dr. Baetge said. Nestle scientists are also studying the cells for possible applications in obesity, diabetes and Alzheimer's.

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