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Influenza or a cold? A new technology can help you

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Smart gadgets in the home might soon be able to tell you what’s wrong with you. But the technology is good news for a lot of other things too.

Influenza or a cold?
Credit: Illustration: NTNU
Microresonators made of germanium. These might have a bigger impact on your future than you might think.
« Influenza or a cold? A new technology can help you

Newswise — Some people do such smart and difficult things that it’s hard to see what in the world they might have to do with you and me, so we just shrug them off. But that’s often the wrong response.

What if you had a simple gadget at home that could tell you why you’re feeling so lousy?

Our microresonator is about 100 times better than what was available before for the longwave infrared spectrum.

What if this gadget could within short order check whether you have COVID or the flu – or maybe it would even pick up that you have diabetes without knowing it? The device could figure all this out without you having to go to a doctor or a laboratory.

Stores the light better

This technology could become a reality within a few years, and electrical engineers are some of people who make it possible to create such gadgets, which contain a key component called the whispering gallery mode microresonator.

New technology is providing better optical sensors, which are important for electronics, including devices that analyse chemicals using light.

“We’ve built the lowest loss whispering gallery mode microresonator out there for the longwave infrared spectrum.  Because the longwave infrared spectrum provides definitive information about chemicals, it provides new possibility for sensing applications,” says Dingding Ren, a researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Department of Electronic Systems.

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We’ll talk more about what a microresonator is later in the article. But first back to Ren. He and his colleagues have developed a new whispering gallery mode microresonator – which can store light for certain wavelengths much longer in the resonance.

“Our microresonator is about 100 times better than what was available before for the longwave infrared spectrum,” says Ren.

“It can retain the light 100 times longer than previous versions, which amplifies the optical field inside and makes nonlinear processes much easier, such as frequency comb generation,” he said.

Opens up great opportunities

Storing light waves in the infrared part of the light spectrum more effectively is good news for several types of new technologies, especially for particle sensing and spectroscopic chemical identification that analyse a gas/fluid sample to check for viruses and bacteria and other nasties you might have.

The new microresonator means that scientists can develop broadband frequency combs in the longwave infrared spectrum using these devices. And just what might those be?

Frequency combs are laser lights whose spectrum consists of a series of discrete, equally spaced frequency lines. These can be found various places, such as in your GPS, in atomic clocks and in fibre optic equipment used in telephones and computers. The technology also opens the door to analysing several chemicals at once, if a broadband frequency comb is available at the longwave infrared spectrum.

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“The technology is still in its initial stage when it comes to measurements in this the longwave infrared spectrum of light. But our improvement gives us the possibility to identify several different chemicals in real time in the near future,” says Ren.

This kind of spectroscopic machine already exists, like something called a Fourier-transform infrared interferometer, but they are so big and so expensive that only hospitals and big budget institutions can afford them. Other, slightly simpler machines might be able to analyse a few chemicals, but not many at once – unlike what the new technology could make possible.

Ren has worked closely with Professor David Burghoff and his colleagues at the University of Notre Dame in the USA.

“The competition is fierce in this field,” says Ren.

The new microresonator is made using the element germanium. The material may sound exotic, but was used in the world’s first transistor as early as 1947, before silicon took over that market.

We can compare the microresonator to what happens with the sound in the whispering gallery in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Today, germanium is frequently used in optical lenses in sensors and infrared cameras, and it is consequently neither particularly rare nor expensive. These are also advantages when theory is going to be brought to the market.

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What are microresonators anyway?

Microresonators, which a type of optical cavities, can store high optical field inside a very small volume. They can be made into a trace or disk geometry, but they usually are at a microscale dimension, similar to the thickness of a hair. Light travels inside the microresonator in circles, so the optical field gets amplified.

“We can compare the microresonator to what happens with the sound in the whispering gallery in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London,” says Ren.

This elliptical gallery has produced a famous phenomenon. You can whisper at one end of it and people at the other end of the room can hear you, even though they wouldn’t normally be to able hear you at that distance. The sound waves are amplified by the shape of the room and the walls, which is how light waves behave in the microresonator. You can read the research article if you want to try to understand this phenomenon better. The link can be found at the bottom of the article.

Funded by Fripro money

Ren is financing the research through a Fripro project grant from the Research Council of Norway, which lasts for three years. Money from Fripro is dedicated to basic research.

“We promised that we would develop a better microresonator, and we’ve succeeded,” Ren said. The research group delivered on its promise.

Stunning work

Bjørn-Ove Fimland and Astrid Aksnes, both professors in NTNU’s Department of Electronic Systems, have provided advice along the way.

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“Ren has done excellent work, which is supported by the fact that he’s had an article published in Nature Communications,” says Aksnes.

The fact that we can now measure in the longwave IR range (8-14 µm, or micrometres) of the light spectrum opens up many possibilities in relation to use in imaging and detection, environmental monitoring and biomedical applications, says Aksnes.

“Many molecules have fundamental vibrational bands in the mid-wave IR range (2-20 µm), the so-called ‘molecular fingerprint region’. By measuring in this wave range, we achieve higher sensitivity,” she says.

Reference: Ren, D., Dong, C., Addamane, S.J. et al. High-quality microresonators in the longwave infrared based on native germanium. Nat Commun 13, 5727 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-022-32706-1

Source: Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

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Health

Coordination of COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trials Produces a ‘Treasure Trove’ of Data and a Model for the Future

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Harmonized approach and vast database of trial participants could bolster future research well beyond SARS-CoV-2

Newswise — SEATTLE – The federally funded COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN), headquartered at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, was instrumental in the rapid development of safe, effective and lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines during earlier phases of the pandemic.

Its vital work to expedite Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials also resulted in a highly collaborative and harmonized approach that can serve as a national and even international model for major research initiatives while also guiding responses to future public health emergencies.

That’s the overarching theme from a new study published Monday, Jan. 23, in JAMA Network Open.

“Our success, which depended entirely on the investments into HIV vaccine research, can be replicated for other important research initiatives and highlights the importance of investments that boost pandemic preparedness for years to come,” explained James G. Kublin, MD, MPH, executive director of CoVPN and senior and corresponding author of the study.

Additionally, he and his colleagues, including  Alfredo Mena Lora, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and co-first author Jessica Long, PhD, MPH, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington Department of Medicine in Seattle, noted that the COVID-19 clinical trials produced a vast database of critical information that could help researchers answer pressing questions about this novel virus moving forward. 

“The harmonization of data across trials is a new strategy that will set the standard for collaboration in future clinical trials,” said Mena Lora. 

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The authors detail how CoVPN was able to help secure authorized vaccines in less than a year by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health as part of Operation Warp Speed. Its mission was, and continues to be, to support the rapid development of vaccines for the U.S. and global populations by coordinating and implementing Phase 3 trials for COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

CoVPN officials were able to leverage existing resources, including clinical and laboratory infrastructure, community partnerships and research expertise, to get clinical sites to quickly pivot to conduct the vaccine trials as soon as investigational products were ready for Phase 3 testing.

“The CoVPN approach drew on years of experience and infrastructure from partnering networks and institutions, which not only allowed for rapid rollout of the trials, but also contributed to broader representation of trial participants,” said Long.

Overall, CoVPN deployed five Phase 3 clinical trials involving more than 136,000 participants to test the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. While doing so, it implemented several innovative procedures that were essential to its ultimate success. These included:

  • Harmonized study designs that were similar in relative size, number of endpoints and time to analysis.
  • A model that accelerated vaccine development by allowing phases to occur in parallel rather than sequentially. For example, vaccine manufacturing and scale-up were greenlighted while the trials were ongoing in anticipation of meeting efficacy targets.
  • Establishment of a single Data Safety Monitoring Board for review and oversight of all vaccine studies.
  • Targeted outreach and enrollment efforts supported by an online screening registry to ensure broad and diverse representation among study participants. Extensive engagement was conducted with communities and community leaders to build and enhance trust in the science to help enroll more Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) volunteers who are historically underrepresented in clinical trials.
  • A cross-platform approach that led to harmonization of data collection across trials and the ability to analyze data from all studies.

“This unique, cross-platform concept allowed for sharing of data from all of the studies and helped bridge gaps in understanding so we could better answer key research questions and guide policy decisions,” explained Kublin, who’s also a principal staff scientist at Fred Hutch. 

Larry Corey, MD, an internationally renowned expert in vaccine development, and principal co-investigator of CoVPN, believes the success of COVID-19 clinical trials should be thought of as an important model for developing vaccines for significant infectious diseases globally.

“Harmonizing study design, enrollment, clinical endpoints and methods for follow-up could very well become best practices that shape the future landscape of major research initiatives and pandemic responses,” he said. 

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Kublin and colleagues regard the vast database from more than 130,000 trial participants, including over 2,500 with documented COVID-19 cases, as a “treasure trove” of data that could help unlock mysteries about the virus. For example, they noted that the pooled data from five trials can help address specific questions such as:

  • How effective are vaccines for at-risk groups?
  • Can vaccines have an impact on long COVID?
  • Are safety, immunogenicity and vaccine efficacy different in special populations, such as people living with HIV?
  • What impact do chronic health conditions have on vaccine efficacy or protection duration?
  • What are the impacts of variants on both the population at large and within special communities?

Additional CoVPN publications planned for the months ahead will address many of these topics. Researchers who have ideas for further investigation and want to collaborate with CoVPN can find more information here.

Source: Covid-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN)

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Health

Observing World Cancer Day

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World Cancer Day is an international day marked on 4 February to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its preventiondetection, and treatment. World Cancer Day is led by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) to support the goals of the World Cancer Declaration, written in 2008. The primary goal of World Cancer Day is to significantly reduce illness and death caused by cancer and is an opportunity to rally the international community to end the injustice of preventable suffering from cancer. The day is observed by the United Nations.

World Cancer Day targets misinformation, raises awareness, and reduces stigma. Multiple initiatives are run on World Cancer Day to show support for those affected by cancer. One of these movements are #NoHairSelfie, a global movement to have “hairticipants” shave their heads either physically or virtually to show a symbol of courage for those undergoing cancer treatment. Images of participants are then shared all over social media. Hundreds of events around the world also take place. (wikipedia)

https://stmdailynews.com/category/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/health/

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FDA CDC News

FDA Concludes that Existing Regulatory Frameworks for Foods and Supplements are Not Appropriate for Cannabidiol, Will Work with Congress on a New Way Forward

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Statement From:Janet Woodcock, M.D.
Principal Deputy Commissioner – Office of the Commissioner

January 26, 2023

Given the growing cannabidiol (CBD) products market, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration convened a high-level internal working group to explore potential regulatory pathways for CBD products. Today we are announcing that after careful review, the FDA has concluded that a new regulatory pathway for CBD is needed that balances individuals’ desire for access to CBD products with the regulatory oversight needed to manage risks. The agency is prepared to work with Congress on this matter. Today, we are also denying three citizen petitions that had asked the agency to conduct rulemaking to allow the marketing of CBD products as dietary supplements.  

The use of CBD raises various safety concerns, especially with long-term use. Studies have shown the potential for harm to the liver, interactions with certain medications and possible harm to the male reproductive system. CBD exposure is also concerning when it comes to certain vulnerable populations such as children and those who are pregnant. 

A new regulatory pathway would benefit consumers by providing safeguards and oversight to manage and minimize risks related to CBD products. Some risk management tools could include clear labels, prevention of contaminants, CBD content limits, and measures, such as minimum purchase age, to mitigate the risk of ingestion by children. In addition, a new pathway could provide access and oversight for certain CBD-containing products for animals.

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The FDA’s existing foods and dietary supplement authorities provide only limited tools for managing many of the risks associated with CBD products. Under the law, any substance, including CBD, must meet specific safety standards to be lawfully marketed as a dietary supplement or food additive. 

The working group, which I chair, has closely examined studies related to the CBD-based drug Epidiolex, published scientific literatureinformation submitted to a public docket, as well as studies both conducted and commissioned by the agency. Given the available evidence, it is not apparent how CBD products could meet safety standards for dietary supplements or food additives. For example, we have not found adequate evidence to determine how much CBD can be consumed, and for how long, before causing harm. Therefore, we do not intend to pursue rulemaking allowing the use of CBD in dietary supplements or conventional foods. 

CBD also poses risks to animals, and people could be unknowingly exposed to CBD through meat, milk and eggs from animals fed CBD. Because it is not apparent how CBD products could meet the safety standard for substances in animal food, we also do not intend to pursue rulemaking allowing the use of CBD in animal food. A new regulatory pathway could provide access and oversight for certain CBD-containing products for animals.

The FDA will continue to take action against CBD and other cannabis-derived products to protect the public, in coordination with state regulatory partners, when appropriate. We will remain diligent in monitoring the marketplace, identifying products that pose risks and acting within our authorities. The FDA looks forward to working with Congress to develop a cross-agency strategy for the regulation of these products to protect the public’s health and safety.

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