News Bites brings you 5 weekly news in bite-sized form.

1. Intravaginal Culture offers a more affordable option to IVF

Effortless IVF, a budget-friendly clinic in Calgary, Canada developed a process called Intravaginal Culture (IVC) to provide a more affordable option compared to traditional in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Unlike traditional IVF, Effortless IVF allows five minutes for the sperm and eggs to meet before placing them in a FDA-approved capsule, an INVOcell. They are then placed into the patient's vagina.

The capsule measuring 4cm long by 3cm in diameter is made of polystyrene. A diaphragm keeps the INVOcell in the vagina for five days while the rest of the environmental factors are up to the patient's body. The capsule then comes out and the best embryo or two are selected to be placed in the patient's uterus.

The clinic is now running on a crowd-funding campaign after publishing results of a 40-person randomised study that compared all factors of the IVF and IVC treatments. Although IVF patients had more "quality embryos" from the eggs harvested (51% versus IVC's 31%), the quality of blastocysts that were transferred into patients' uteruses. Birth rates of both groups also did not significantly differ.

2. Photoantimicrobials may be the answer to the superbug problem

Academics in the UK and Europe may provide an answer to the global superbug problem - they are using dye molecules and light to kill bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa. The dyes, known as photoantimicrobials, upon contact with light, will produce reactive forms of oxygen, which are highly toxic to simple microbial cells.

They are also broad-spectrum and can treat fungal diseases and protozoal diseases, which cannot be targeted by antibiotics. Bacteria do not have a resistance mechanism towards reactive oxygen.

The reactive oxygen also has many sites of attack, therefore the bacteria are also a lot less likely to develop resistance to photoantimicrobials. However their limitation lies in systemic infections such as sepsis, as there is a difficulty of illuminating these throughout the whole body. More studies are expected to be conducted to address this.

3. "Smart glasses" with liquid lenses that automatically focuses

Mastrangelo with the
Mastrangelo with the "Smart Glasses". Photo credit: University of Utah

Researchers at the University of Utah have developed "smart glasses" that will automatically adjust their focus due to their liquid lenses.

"The major advantage of these smart eyeglasses is that once a person puts them on, the objects in front of the person always show clear, no matter at what distance the object is," says Carlos Mastrangelo, an engineering professor who led the research.

The lenses are made of glycerin, a thick clear liquid, enclosed in flexible membranes. The curvature of the glycerin lens can then be changed by mechanically moving the membranes back and forth. A distance meter on the bridge measures the distance from the wearer's face to nearby objects using infrared light.

The meter then channels a signal to the membranes to adjust the curve of the lens in 14 milliseconds. The glasses are paired with a smartphone app, which combines data about the wearer's prescription to automatically calibrate the lenses via Bluetooth. Prescriptions can then be accordingly updated in the app. The team is hoping to commercialise the product in two to three years.

4. Antibacterial properties found in Komodo dragon saliva

The saliva of Komodo dragons is known to contain at least 57 species of bacteria which cause deadly infections. However the Komodo dragon is resistant to these bacteria.

Scientists from the College of Science at George Mason University have isolated the lizard's blood and identified 48 antimicrobial peptides (CAMPs). 47 of these were derived from histone proteins, which are known to have antimicrobial activities.

Eight were then synthesised and tested against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus. Seven showed significant potency against both bacteria and only one against P. aeruginosa. The researchers conclude that this could propel the search for antimicrobials, leading to new therapeutics.

5. Vitamin "nanomesh" to promote nerve healing

Conduits hold severed nerves together to allow healing, however they do not promote healing, limiting their use on nerves that are injured but still in one piece.

Now, Japanese scientists have developed a nanofiber "nerve-wrap" mesh that could be used to treat conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome. The soft biodegradable mesh is a flat sheet that is surgically wrapped around the injured nerve to form a sleeve.

The plastic is also saturated with vitamin B12, which has been shown to aid in nerve regeneration but is less effective when taken orally. The vitamin will be released from the sleeve into the wound site and has been shown to heal nerves significantly faster in the experiment that was done on crushed sciatic nerves in rats.

The scientists are now working with a pharmaceutical company to begin human clinical trials. MIMS

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