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In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.

April 1, 2019 by Ansley Kahn

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Contraceptive jewelry may one day offer women a new approach to meet their family planning needs. Researchers from FHI 360 are exploring using transdermal patch technology to administer contraceptive hormones through patches applied to areas of jewelry—such as earrings, watches, rings, or necklaces—that are in contact with skin, allowing the drug to be absorbed into the body. Initial testing on animals suggests that contraceptive jewelry may deliver sufficient amounts of hormones to provide contraception, however no human testing has been performed to date. Researchers believe the tool could help improve adherence among certain women and allow for more discreet use of contraception, as well as serve the needs of women in developing countries who may have limited access to health care services and long-acting contraceptives such as injectables, implants, and intrauterine devices.

Innovators at Cardiff Medicentre and Picofluidics have developed a specific type of microneedle that can be produced for approximately one-tenth of the cost of those currently on the market. Trials have confirmed the viability of their plasma treatment technology that enables the cost-effective production of collections of many thousands of microneedles, which are used to deliver medicines or vaccines, often in the form of a patch applied to a person’s skin. The developers hope to collaborate with partners to commercialize the technology, which they see as having many potential uses including pain-free injection of medications such insulin, vaccines, or intradermal fluid removal for diagnostic purposes and early disease detection.

Scientists at Centenary Institute have uncovered a new avenue to improve treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) by increasing the effectiveness of the immune system using widely-available anti-platelet drugs, including aspirin. Researchers used fluorescent microscopy in animal models to observe the build-up of blood clots and the activation of platelets around sites of infection, confirming that TB bacterium hijack platelets from the body's blood clotting system to weaken the immune system. Using anti-platelet drugs to treat the infection, researchers were able to prevent the hijacking, enabling the body to better control the infection. This study provides evidence that platelets have been found to worsen TB and “opens up the possibility that anti-platelet drugs could be used to help the immune system fight off drug resistant TB.”

About the author

Ansley KahnGHTC

Ansley Kahn is a senior program assistant at GHTC who supports GHTC's communications and member engagement activities.