Leo Han of Oregon Health and Science University in the U.S. and colleagues at the University of North Carolina and the Marsico Lung Institute will build a hydration-based drug discovery platform for the cervix to screen drug libraries for long-lasting non-hormonal contraceptives that alter mucus hydration. Contraceptives that thicken cervical mucus to block the movement of sperm and thereby inhibit fertility would be well tolerated and may also protect against pathogens. Identifying nonhormonal drugs that work in this way, however, is difficult because of the lack of relevant cell culture systems for high-throughput testing. They have previously conditionally reprogrammed endocervical cells to grow in culture while retaining relevant physiological characteristics such as hormonal regulation and mucus production. They will adapt this method for high-throughput screens by incorporating particle-based tracking microrheology to quantify hydration of the mucus layer produced by the cells that can then be used to screen drug libraries.
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