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Scientists developing female condom that’ll dissolve inside the body

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A team of scientists at the University Of Washington are developing a product that women can use to protect themselves from HIV infection and unintended pregnancy.

The only way to protect against HIV and unintended pregnancy today is the condom. It’s an effective technology, but not appropriate or popular in all situations.

A University of Washington team has developed a versatile platform to simultaneously offer contraception and prevent HIV. Electrically spun cloth with nanometer-sized fibers can dissolve to release drugs, providing a platform for cheap, discrete and reversible protection.

The research was published this week in the Public Library of Science’s open-access journal PLoS One. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation last month awarded the UW researchers almost $1 million to pursue the technology.

“Our dream is to create a product women can use to protect themselves from HIV infection and unintended pregnancy,” said corresponding author Kim Woodrow, a UW assistant professor of bioengineering. “We have the drugs to do that. It’s really about delivering them in a way that makes them more potent, and allows a woman to want to use it.”

Electrospinning uses an electric field to catapult a charged fluid jet through air to create very fine, nanometer-scale fibers. The fibers can be manipulated to control the material’s solubility, strength and even geometry. Because of this versatility, fibers may be better at delivering medicine than existing technologies such as gels, tablets or pills. No high temperatures are involved, so the method is suitable for heat-sensitive molecules. The fabric can also incorporate large molecules, such as proteins and antibodies, that are hard to deliver through other methods.

At a lab meeting last year, Woodrow presented the concept, and co-authors Emily Krogstad and Cameron Ball, both first-year graduate students, pursued the idea.

They first dissolved polymers approved by the Food and Drug Administration and antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV to create a gooey solution that passes through a syringe. As the stream encounters the electric field it stretches to create thin fibers measuring 100 to several thousand nanometers that whip through the air and eventually stick to a collecting plate (one nanometer is about one 25-millionth of an inch). The final material is a stretchy fabric that can physically block sperm or release chemical contraceptives and antivirals.

fibers

“This method allows controlled release of multiple compounds,” Ball said. “We were able to tune the fibers to have different release properties.”

One of the fabrics they made dissolves within minutes, potentially offering users immediate, discrete protection against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Another dissolves gradually over a few days, providing an option for sustained delivery, more like the birth-control pill, to provide contraception and guard against HIV.

The fabric could incorporate many fibers to guard against many different sexually transmitted infections, or include more than one anti-HIV drug to protect against drug-resistant strains (and discourage drug-resistant strains from emerging). Mixed fibers could be designed to release drugs at different times to increase their potency, like the prime-boost method used in vaccines.

The electrospun cloth could be inserted directly in the body or be used as a coating on vaginal rings or other products.

Electrospinning has existed for decades, but it’s only recently been automated to make it practical for applications such as filtration and tissue engineering. This is the first study to use nanofibers for vaginal drug delivery.

While this technology is more discrete than a condom, and potentially more versatile than pills or plastic or rubber devices, researchers say there is no single right answer.

“At the time of sex, are people going to actually use it? That’s where having multiple options really comes into play,” Krogstad said. “Depending on cultural background and personal preferences, certain populations may differ in terms of what form of technology makes the most sense for them.”

The team is focusing on places like Africa where HIV is most common, but the technology could be used in the U.S. or other countries to offer birth control while also preventing one or more sexually transmitted diseases.

The research to date was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the UW’s Center for AIDS Research. The other co-author on the paper is Thanyanan Chaowanachan, a UW postdoctoral researcher and longtime HIV expert.

The team will use the new Gates Foundation grant to evaluate the versatility and feasibility of their system. The group will hire more research staff and buy an electrospinning machine to make butcher-paper sized sheets. The expanded team will spend a year testing combinations that deliver two antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV and a hormonal contraceptive, and then six months scaling up production of the most promising materials.

Source: News Release University of Washington

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Video: Massive Landslide in Sirmaur Caught on Camera, NH 707 Closed for Traffic

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Sirmaur-Incessant rains have caused another massive landslide in the Sirmaur district on National Highway 707. A 100 to 150 meters stretch of Paonta Sahib – Shillai road near Kali Dhank, Badwas, caved in within a few minutes.

According to the initial information received, no loss of lives or damage to any vehicle was reported as a minor slide from the hill had alerted the people.

The landslide completely damaged several electricity poles, causing a blackout in some parts of the region.

The district police is re-directing all traffic from Paonta Sahib to Shillai to the Puruwala-Kilod-Jong-Kafota-Shillai route.

Further, all traffic movement towards Shimla from the region has also been re-directed.

The HP Meteorological Department has issued a yellow alert for the state till August 2th, while widespread rain has been predicted till August 4th. 

The Met has also issued an alert for flash-floods for Chamba, Mandi, Kullu, Shimla, and Solan districts.

It’s pertinent to mention that furious monsoon has already claimed over 200 lives and caused damages to property worth hundreds of crores in Himachal Pradesh.

During the last two days, as many as 21 people had died due to landslides and flash floods triggered by cloudbursts. Some of the persons who were swept away or buried were yet to be traced.

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Himachal: Cloudbursts, Landslides Claim 9 Lives in 48 Hours, 7 Still Missing, Met Issues Alert Till August 1st  

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Shimla-Monsoon continues to pummel Himachal Pradesh with deadly ferocity, leading to more cloudbursts, landslides, and flash floods. Several rivers and rivulets are in spate. Incessant rains could bring more destruction as the HP Meteorological Department has forecast widespread heavy rains till August 1st. While a red alert was issued for July 28, an orange alert has been issued for July 29 and July 30 and a yellow alert for July 31st and August 1st.

An advisory has been issued for locals and tourists to not venture near the river banks and avoid unnecessary travel as incessant rains could lead to more landslides, flash floods, and uprooting of trees.  However, tourists could be seen resolutely ignoring these warnings and partying near river banks and water bodies.

As devastation unfolds, the death toll due to monsoon induced calamities has reached nearly 200, while damages to property were assessed to be in hundreds of crores. Over 350 roads, including Manali-Leh, Pathankot-Chamba, and Shimla-Kalka, were blocked due to landslides.  Half a dozen bridges, as many as 30 houses and several vehicles were destroyed. Hundreds of tourists were reportedly struck in Lahaul.

lahaul-spiti cloudburst

After a flash flood in Dharamshala, a massive landslide in Shahpur constituency, and a horrid rockslide in Kinnaur district that killed nine tourists and injured four people, a cloudburst triggered a flash flood in Lahaul-Spiti district on Tuesday that washed away over a dozen of people, who were said to be labourers.  

cloudburst in lahaul-spiti

According to the Director of the State Disaster Management, Sudesh Kumar, at the time of writing this report, seven bodies had been recovered while four others were missing. The cloudburst occurred over Tonzin nallah in the Lahaul region of the tribal district. Rescue operations were in progress to trace missing persons.

A team of the National Disaster Response Force, which was on its way to Lahaul-Spiti through road, remained stuck in Mandi for several hours.  

On Wednesday morning, cloudburst was reported in Kullu district resulting in deluging of Bhramhaganga – a tributary of Parvati river. A  tourist, a 25-year-old mother along with her 4-year-old son, and a hydropower official came in its spate and were yet to be traced. Beas river was also in spate and people living in shanties on its bank were evacuated. 

Beas in spate

Rackham area in Kinnaur district also reported heavy losses due to a cloudburst on Wednesday morning.

While a rockslide killed one person in Chamba’s Saluni, a helper tagged with a JCB deployed for clearing Bharmaur-Pathankot National Highway was swept away by gushing waters of a nullah on Tuesday night. His body was recovered on Wednesday.

In Shimla, a landslide between Vikasnagar and Panthaghati crushed a vehicle and caused damaged to some others. Gumma khud in Chirgaon was also in spate and reportedly swept away a bridge and about four vehicles. 

landslide in shimla crushed car

Dharamsala received the highest 122 mm of rain, followed by Una 119 mm. In Solan district, Kasauli and Nalagarh also received over 105 mm rain. 

This widespread destruction has worried climatologists and environmentalists who are linking increased instances of landslides and cloudburst to environmental degradation and destabilization of hills due to developmental projects, including cutting of hills for widening of roads, construction of four lanes, hydropower projects etc. 

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Kinnaur: Massive Landslide Caught on Camera, Kills 9 Tourists, Injures 4, Destroys Bailey Bridge

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Kinnaur: A massive landslide in Batseri on Sangla-Chitkul road in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh on Sunday killed nine persons and injured at least four others. Huge boulders rolled down the mountain following the landslide and destroyed an iron Bailey bridge and many vehicles parked along the road within a few seconds.

A tourist vehicle, which was reportedly carrying about 11 tourists from Delhi NCR, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Chattisgarh, was hit by boulders near Gunsa, killing nine tourists. A couple of videos of this heart-wrenching incident went viral on social media. In the video, some people can be heard whistling and shouting to warn others.

“Nine people died, and three were injured after boulders rolled downhill due to a landslide in Kinnaur district. Batseri bridge collapsed in the incident. A rescue team is present at the spot,” Superintendent of Police (SP), Kinnaur, Saju Ram Rana said.

The intensity with which boulders hit could be assessed from the fact that the iron bailey bridge on the Baspa river collapsed instantly. 

Video of landlside in himachal pradesh

On receiving the information, teams of district police and Indo-Tibetan Border Police rushed to the spot and initiated a rescue operation. The district administration was also assessing the situation. As per reports, rocks sliding down from the hilltop made the rescue operation difficult for the teams.

sangla valley landslide

As per initial reports, a request was made to make a helicopter available to aid rescue work, which was yet to be fulfilled.

landslide in himachal pradesh

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur also expressed grief over the incident. An ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh was announced for the deceased while injured would be given Rs. 50 thousand.

The exact cause behind the landslide was yet to be ascertained.

The deceased were identified as:

  1. Pratiksha Sunil Patil (27) from Sadhbhawna Nagar, Nagpur, Maharashtra
  2. Deepa Sharma (34) from Jaipur
  3. Amoghi Bapat (27) from Korba Darri in Chhatisgarh
  4. Umrab Singh (42) of Tagore Garden West Delhi
  5. Kumar Ulhas vedpathak (37)
  6. Anurag Biyani (31) from Sikar in Rajasthan, his mother Maya Devi Biyani (55) and his sister Richa Biyani (25)
  7. Satish Katakbar (34) from Chhatisgarh.

Those injured have been identified as Shiril Obroy (39) from West Delhi, Naveen Bhardwaj (37) from Kaharar in Mohali and Ranjeet Singh (45) from Batseri in Sangla.

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