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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.

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“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

Misc News/Press Release

Kotkhai Custodial Death: After Zaidi, Ex-SP Shimla DW Negi Gets Bail Too

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Shimla-Ex-Superintendent of Police, Shimla, DW Negi, who is an accused in the custodial death in Kotkhai’s Gudiya case, is also out on bail after Ex IG Zahur H Zaidi. Zaidi was granted bail by the Supreme Court of India on April 5, 2019. He had pleaded to the court that over 19 months have passed since the filling of charge-sheet but nothing was proved in the trial so far.

On April 18, Justice Sureshwar Thakur of Himachal Pradesh High Court, granted bail to DW Negi on the same pretext. He appealed to the court that CBI has recovered nothing from him in relation to the case. Now, the chances are high that remaining seven accused police officials would also get bail using the same argument.

The conditions of his bail included furnishing personal bond in the sum of Rs 3 lakhs and two local sureties. He would have to deposit his passport with the CBI. He will have to co-operate in investigation whenever the agency requires him.

A three-member team of CBI had arrested Negi on November 16, 2016, and was in jail since then. Before Negi, CBI had arrested ex-IG Zaidi and seven others on August 29, 2016.  All seven accused police officials were booked in relation to alleged conspiracy and custodial death of a Nepalese labourer Suraj.

Suraj was among the six initial accused arrested by Zaidi-led Special Investigation Team that was formed to probe alleged gang-rape and gruesome murder of a 16-year-old school going girl in July 2016. Later, when the case was transferred to CBI, the agency found that these six accused were innocent and were framed under a police conspiracy.


CBI had filed a chargesheet against the SIT members, I.G. Zahur H. Zaidi, D.S.P Theog Manoj Joshi, the then SHO Kotkhai Rajender Singh, ASI Deep Chand Sharma, Head Constables Surat Singh, Mohan Lal and Rafiq Ali and constable Ranjit Singh was filed in the special CBI court in November 2017.

The accused were charged under Section 302, 330, 331, 348, 323, 326, 218, 195, 196, 201 and 120 B. The chargsheet contains 600 pages including annexes and statements of about 50 eyewitnesses.

While granting Zaidi a bail, the Apex Court had stated in its order that;

  …Our attention has been drawn to the allegations against the accused-appellant and that he is in custody for the last 19 months. Though the accused-appellant is facing charge under Section 302, we are told that the trial has not made substantial progress beyond the framing of the charge. Completion of trial will take some time…

…the period of custody suffered and likely time that may be taken for completion of trial, we are of the view that the accused appellant should be released on bail in connection with FIR No.RC SI 2017 S0009 CBI/SC-I/New Delhi, on satisfaction of the appropriate condition(s) as may be imposed by the learned trial court…

The CBI had also pleaded in the court to shift the hearing of the case from H.P High Court to Delhi High Court for expeditious disposal. The Court did not adhere to this request and observed that the same would be considered after hearing all the accused.

Further CBI had also raised doubts that if the police officer was granted bail, he could influence and intimidate witnesses in the case as he was a high-rank police official. To this, the court observed that this cannot be a reason to deny bail at this juncture, and if such incidence comes to light then it is always open for CBI to apply for cancellation of Bail in the competent court.

The reason of delay in trial with a remark that nothing substantial had been done in the case after framing of charge had come to a major blow to the CBI.

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India’s Rank in World Press Freedom Index Drops to 140 in 2019, Report Points Out Hindutva and Nationalism Agendas

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The 2019 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has been released today. As a matter of huge concern in the list of 180 countries surveyed, India has dropped down to 140th position from last year’s 138.  Norway was ranked at number one.

India has been placed close to Pakistan at 142, and Bangladesh at 150.

The overall findings showed hatred of journalists has degenerated into violence, contributing to an increase in fear. The number of countries regarded as safe, where journalists can work in complete security, continues to decline, while authoritarian regimes continue to tighten their grip on the media

As per the Index, threats, insults and attacks are now part of the “occupational hazards” for journalists in many countries.

“In India, where critics of Hindu nationalism are branded as “anti-Indian” in online harassment campaigns, six journalists were murdered in 2018,”

the RSF said in its Index.

Violence against journalists – including police violence, attacks by Maoist fighters, and reprisals by criminal groups or corrupt politicians – is one of the most striking characteristics of the current state of press freedom in India, the report said.

As per the RSF report, at least six Indian journalists were killed in connection with their work in 2018. A number of doubts surround a seventh case. These murders highlighted the many dangers Indian journalists face, especially those working for non-English-language media outlets in rural areas.

“Attacks against journalists by supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi increased in the run-up to general elections in the spring of 2019. Those who espouse Hindutva, the ideology that gave rise to Hindu nationalism, are trying to purge all manifestations of “anti-national” thought from the national debate,”

the report said.

“The coordinated hate campaigns waged on social networks against journalists who dare to speak or write about subjects that aggravate Hindutva followers are alarming and include calls for the journalists concerned to be murdered. The campaigns are particularly virulent when the targets are women,”

the report noted.

Further, the RSF report said that the emergence of a #MeToo movement in the media in 2018 has lifted the veil on many cases of harassment and sexual assault to which women reporters have been subjected. It also said that criminal prosecutions are meanwhile often used to gag journalists critical of the authorities, with some prosecutors invoking Section 124a of the penal code, under which “sedition” is punishable by life imprisonment.

 The mere threat of such a prosecution encourages self-censorship.

Coverage of regions that the authorities regard as sensitive, such as Kashmir, continues to be very difficult. Foreign reporters are barred from Kashmir and the Internet is often disconnected there,

RSF report said.

It also suggested that when not detained, Kashmiri journalists working for local media outlets are often the targets of violence.

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Mohali Rape Case: Victim Reached 2 Police Stations, Still No Action Was Taken

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Shimla-A 22-year-old girl, who is a resident of Himachal Pradesh, was allegedly raped on April 15 in a cab in Mohali. As per the victim, she was made to run from one police station to other but none of them filed an FIR. The girl had to walk back to her home. After two days, when the matter was brought to the notice of senior police officials, an SHO was suspended for inaction and an FIR was filed.

The alleged apathy of police is worrisome as it raises questions over the willingness of police to ensure the safety of women.

As per the victim, who got married two months back and is employed with a call centre in Mohali, she was on the way to her office when a cab stopped close to her. The driver inquired about an address from the victim and then offered her a lift. The woman accepted the lift. From Phase VIII, where she sat in the car, the cab driver took her to an abandoned ground near a government building in Sohana area and allegedly raped her. He threatened her of dire consequences in case she tried to scream or to raise an alarm.

The victim said the accused then took her to a road in an isolated area and tried to rape her again. However, as per the victim, she managed to distract the accused and escape. The accused sped away from the spot.

She sat in the car in Phase VIII but was raped in Sohana area. When she reached Sohana police station, SHO Daljeet Singh sent her to the police station under which Phase VIII falls. The SHOs reportedly cited jurisdictional issues as the reason for not filing her complaint. However, there is a provision of ‘Zero FIR’ that can be lodged at any police station irrespective of jurisdiction. 

Moreover, the alleged crime was committed between 9 PM to 11 PM – in broad daylight. The victim said she remained his captive for almost two hours.

A senior police official told media that the girl was unable to recall the number of the vehicle. The official assured that case has been registered and a departmental inquiry was ordered against the SHO of Sohana police station. A case was filed against the unidentified accused under Sections 376 (rape) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).  The police said CCTV footages from concerned areas are being collected. A sketch of the victim would also be prepared to nab the accused, the official told media.  

As the woman hailed from Himachal Pradesh, police drew criticism from people of Hill State. Several people tagged Himachal Watcher on Twitter and Facebook asking it to highlight the issue. They expressed their distress over the attitude of the police.

Now, the National Commission of Women has also issued a notice to the Director General of Police, Punjab, expressing concern over the safety of females and working of police.

A National English Daily reported that the suspended SHO belonged to Jagraon in Ludhiana, and has a controversial history.

Daljeet was recruited in police in 2000 on compassionate grounds after his father, a deputy superintendent of police with Punjab Police, was killed by terrorists. He has faced departmental inquiries earlier for not revealing his pending criminal case before joining the duty. The Daily said he enjoyed strong political patronage.

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