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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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Vivek Kumar of Kangra Among Those Martyred in Helicopter Crash, Leaves Behind Wife and 2-Month-Old Son

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Kangra-The demise of the Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat, his wife along with 11 others onboard an Indian Air Force Mi-17V5 helicopter that crashed in Coonoor of Tamil Nadu on Wednesday shocked the nation.

Tributes were pouring in across the world for India’s first CDS and other departed souls.

A village in Kangra district – Thehado (ठेहडू) in Jaisinghpur subdivision-is also mourning the demise of Vivek Raj who was also onboard the ill-fated chopper. Lance Nayak Vivek Kumar 1 Para (SF) was PSO to the CDS, Bipin Rawat.

Vivek left behind a wife and 2-months-old son. He had joined the J&K Rifles in 2012 and later served as a commando. He had got married in 2020. The news of his departure has left the family devastated. A pall of gloom has descended upon his native village. His father Ramesh Chand is a daily wager and his mother is a housewife. His younger brother runs a bakery shop in Baijnath.     

On Thursday, officials from the Defence visited his house for collecting the DNA sample of the parents. The bodies, according to the report, were burnt so badly in the crash that it was difficult to ascertain their identities. The DNA samples would help in the identification.

According to the official reports, the sole survivor of the crash, Group Captain Varun Singh, was on life support at the Military Hospital at Wellington.

Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force has retrieved the Flight Recorder of the Black Box of the helicopter. The cause of the crash was still under investigation.

Bipin Rawat along with his wife and other 13 was on his way to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington to deliver a lecture.

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Shimla, Manali Receive Season’s First Spell of Snow, Cheers Tourism Industry

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Shimla-First spell of snow in Shimla’s tourist destinations, Narkanda and Kufri, has cheered the tourism industry as it would increase the footfall of tourists. Similarly, higher parts of Manali also reported a light spell of snow on Sunday evening. Lahaul-Spiti, however, reportedly witnessed heavy snowfall and Atal Tunnel, Rohtang, was closed for traffic. Parts of the Kinnaur district also recorded a spell of snow.

Chopal in Shimla had received 2-3 inches of snow, while Dodra Kwar recorded one foot of snow, according to the Met Department.

In Kullu, Jalori Pass had received 3 inches of snow, Rohtang top 2.5 feet, and Atal Tunnel 1.5 feet.

In Lahaul-Spiti, Koksar/Sissu had recorded 18 inches of snow, Keylong 8 inches, Darcha 12 inches, Udaipur 4 inches, Tindi 2 inches, Kaza 1 inch, and Lossar 2 inches of snow.

In Kinnaur, Chitkul had recorded 15.4 cms of snow, Kalpa 5 cms, and Sangla 7.62 cms. Nichar also received a light spell.

This change in weather has triggered a cold wave across the state. Further, the Himachal Pradesh Meteorological Department had issued a yellow alert for December 5, 2021. The Met has predicted rain and snow on December 6 too. While the weather is predicted to be dry on December 8, the state could witness more rain and snow on December 7 and December 9, according to the Met Department.

Most roads, except in Lahaul-Spiti, remain open to traffic movement, the district administrations of Shimla and Kullu confirmed. Further, the administrations said preparations are being made to keep the roads clear in case of heavy snowfall.

This tourist season is crucial for the hospitality industry which was worst hit by the pandemic induced restrictions. However, the entry of Omicron – the new variant of Covid-19 that has been termed as a variant of concern by the WHO-haunts the season. India had reported as many as 21 cases of Omicron till Sunday. If the HP Government decides to impose restrictions on the entry of the domestic tourist in view of the spread of the new variant, the hospitality industry could again face losses.  

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Himachal Achieves 100% Vaccination Target, OPD at AIIMS, Bilaspur, Inaugurated   

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Shimla-Himachal Pradesh has achieved the 100 percent target of the second dose of Covid vaccination, the State government informed on Sunday.  Himachal Pradesh has become the first State of the country in achieving the target of cent per cent vaccination of targeted eligible age group, it informed.  

According to the HP Government, all eligible 53,86,393 adults have been administered the second dose of the vaccine.

District-Wise Vaccination Details

District

Number of People Vaccinated 

Bilaspur  318150
Chamba 352605
Hamirpur 361954
Kangra 1140439
Kinnaur 68460
Kullu 322643
Lahaul-Spiti 25494
Mandi 738818
Shimla 634019
Sirmaru 410187
Solan 584326
Una 429298

A complete vaccination was performed first in the inaccessible areas and tribal areas of the state and Kinnaur district became the first district in the entire country to administer the second dose of the vaccine to all eligible adults, the government informed.

On this occasion, Jagat Prakash Nadda, the Member of Parliament and National BJP President, also addressed a felicitation ceremony of Covid Vaccination Workers at Bilaspur on Sunday.

Nadda also dedicated the first OPD at AIIMS Kothipura in Bilaspur. The AIIMS Bilaspur would be made fully functional within the next six months, said Nadda.

 

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JP Nadda at AIIMS Bilaspur

He said that the foundation stone of this institution was laid about three years back and it would have been completed a year ago, but the pace was affected due to the corona pandemic. He said that Himachal Pradesh has got an Rs. 500 crore Satellite centre of PGI Chandigarh at Una.

He also congratulated the State Government, doctors, health care workers and all the frontline workers for achieving this unique feat. 

Union Minister of Health, Chemicals and Fertilizers Mansukh Mandaviya, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Youth Affairs and Sports Anurag Singh were also present on the occasion

 

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