Researchers develop a new type of light-sensitive nanoparticle to help identify ectopic pregnancy

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Nanomedicine for treating ectopic pregnancy. Credit: Provided by Olena Taratula, OSU

Oregon State University scientists have produced a proof of concept for a new and better way of caring for women facing the life-threatening situation of ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the lining of the uterus.

Olena Taratula of the OSU College of Pharmacy and Leslie Myatt of Oregon Health & Science University led a team of researchers that used pregnant mice to develop a novel nanomedicine technique for diagnosing and ending ectopic pregnancies, which are non-viable and the leading cause of maternal death in the first trimester.

Findings were published in the journal Small.

The study is important because 2% of all pregnancies in the United States, and between 1% and 2% worldwide, are ectopic, the authors note. In the U.S. alone that translates to approximately 100,000 ectopic pregnancies annually.

About 98% of ectopic implantations happen in the , putting women at risk of hemorrhage and death. Complicating matters are a high misdiagnosis frequency—ultrasound yields an incorrect diagnosis 40% of the time—combined with a 10% failure rate of the primary drug, methotrexate, used to end an .

Roughly 70 women in the U.S. die each year from ectopic pregnancies, which are responsible for 10% of all -related deaths. Women who survive often struggle with a range of issues resulting from diagnosis and treatment, Taratula said.

“Current strategies include attempted diagnosis with transvaginal ultrasound, treatment with methotrexate, and surgery if necessary,” she said. “The strategies are associated with the risk of tubal rupture, reduced fertility and increased risk of another ectopic pregnancy—a woman who has had one ectopic pregnancy is 10% more likely to have a second one.”

And even when methotrexate—a drug that ends ectopic pregnancy by causing embryonic cells to stop dividing—is effective, it comes with a range of potential side effects, Taratula said: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, elevated liver enzymes, kidney damage and lung disease.

To meet the challenges associated with diagnosing and treating ectopic pregnancies, Olena Taratula and Oleh Taratula of the OSU College of Pharmacy, as well as Myatt and Maureen Baldwin of OHSU, spearheaded a collaboration that developed a new type of light-sensitive nanoparticle. Nanoparticles are tiny pieces of matter, as small as one-billionth of a meter.

Administered intravenously, the new nanoparticles accumulate in the placenta, which nourishes and maintains the fetus through the umbilical cord. In a healthy pregnancy, the placenta forms inside the uterus, and in an ectopic pregnancy, it does not.

“Effective detection of the growing placenta would drastically improve the accurate and timely identification of ectopic pregnancy,” Olena Taratula said.

Once the nanoparticles are concentrated in the placenta, the organ can be seen through fluorescent and photoacoustic imaging, and it quickly becomes clear whether the placenta is where it’s supposed to be. If it is, the patient would know she did not have an ectopic pregnancy, and the embryo is unaffected by the particles as they do not cross the placental barrier.

If the placenta is in a or other incorrect location, the pregnancy could be ended by exposure to near-infrared light, which causes the nanoparticles to rise in temperature above 43 degrees Celsius and irreparably disrupt placental function via heat.

“Our main goal in this study was to evaluate our nanoparticle’s ability to identify and visualize the developing placenta and demonstrate its photothermal capabilities,” Taratula said. “Our experimental results are promising, and the next step is to validate it in other animal models to further advance the application of this technology.”

More information:
Abraham S. Moses et al, Nano‐Theranostic Modality for Visualization of the Placenta and Photo‐Hyperthermia for Potential Management of Ectopic Pregnancy, Small (2022). DOI: 10.1002/smll.202202343

Journal information:

Researchers develop a new type of light-sensitive nanoparticle to help identify ectopic pregnancy (2022, November 21)
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COP27 summit strikes historic deal to fund climate damages

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The Paris Agreement said global warming should be slashed to well below two degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels and preferably a safer 1.5C.

A fraught UN summit wrapped up Sunday with a landmark deal on funding to help vulnerable countries cope with devastating climate impacts—but also anger over a failure to be more ambitious on cutting emissions.

The two-week talks in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, which at times appeared to teeter on the brink of collapse, delivered a major breakthrough on a fund for climate “loss and damage”.

Pakistani climate minister Sherry Rehman said COP27 “responded to the voices of the vulnerable”.

“We have struggled for 30 years on this path, and today in Sharm el-Sheikh this journey has achieved its first positive milestone,” she told the summit.

Tired delegates applauded when the fund was adopted as the sun came up Sunday following almost two extra days of round-the-clock negotiations.

But jubilation over that achievement was countered by stern warnings.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said the talks had “taken an important step towards justice” with the loss and damage fund, but fell short in pushing for the urgent carbon-cutting needed to tackle global warming.

“Our planet is still in the emergency room,” Guterres said. “We need to drastically reduce emissions now and this is an issue this COP did not address.”

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also warned that “more must be done”, while French President Emmanuel Macron proposed another summit in Paris ahead of COP28 in Dubai to agree “a new financial pact” for vulnerable nations.

‘Our planet is still in the emergency room,’ said United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

‘Stonewalled by emitters’

A final COP27 statement covering the broad efforts to grapple with a warming planet held the line on the aspirational goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.

It also included language on renewable energy for the first time, while reiterating previous calls to accelerate “efforts towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”.

But that failed to go much further than a similar decision from last year’s COP26 meeting in Glasgow on key issues around cutting planet-heating pollution.

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said the EU was “disappointed”, adding that more than 80 nations had backed a stronger emissions pledge.

“What we have in front of us… doesn’t bring enough added efforts from major emitters to increase and accelerate their emission cuts,” said Timmermans, who 24 hours earlier threatened to walk out of the talks.

The two-week talks in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh at times appeared to teeter on the brink of collapse.

Britain’s Alok Sharma, who chaired COP26 in Glasgow, said a passage on energy had been “weakened, in the final minutes”.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said she was frustrated that the emissions cuts and fossil fuel phase-out were “stonewalled by a number of large emitters and oil producers”.

Criticised by some delegations for a lack of transparency during negotiations, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, the COP27 chair, said any missteps were “certainly not intentional”, and that he worked to avoid any “backslide” by parties.

‘Loss and damage’

The deal on loss and damage gathered critical momentum during the talks.

Developing nations relentlessly pushed for the fund, finally succeeding in getting the backing of wealthy polluters long fearful of open-ended liability.

A statement from the Alliance of Small Island States, comprised of islands whose very existence is threatened by sea levels rising, said the loss and damage deal was “historic”.

A child in Iraq, a country heavily impacted by climate change and water scarcity, in the dried-up bed of Iraq’s receding southern marshes of Chibayish, on August 23, 2022.

“The agreements made at COP27 are a win for our entire world,” said Molwyn Joseph, of Antigua and Barbuda and chair of AOSIS.

“We have shown those who have felt neglected that we hear you, we see you, and we are giving you the respect and care you deserve.”

With around 1.2C of warming so far, the world has seen a cascade of climate-driven extremes, shining a spotlight on the plight of developing countries faced with escalating disasters, as well as an energy and food price crisis and ballooning debt.

The fund will be geared towards developing nations “that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change”—language that had been requested by the EU.

‘On the brink’

The Europeans had also wanted to broaden the funder base to cough up cash—code for China and other better-off emerging countries.

The final loss and damage text left many of the thornier questions to be dealt with by a transitional committee, which will report to next year’s climate meeting in Dubai to get the funding operational.

The fund will focus on what can be done now to support loss and damage resources but the agreement does not provide for liability or compensation, said a US State Department spokesperson.

Scientists say limiting warming to 1.5C is a far safer guardrail against catastrophic climate impacts, with the world currently way off track and heading for around 2.5C under current commitments and plans.

“The historic outcome on loss and damage at COP27 shows international cooperation is possible,” said Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and Chair of The Elders.

“Equally, the renewed commitment on the 1.5C global warming limit was a source of relief. However, none of this changes the fact that the world remains on the brink of climate catastrophe.”

© 2022 AFP

COP27 agrees to fund climate damages, no progress on emission cuts (2022, November 20)
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