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Female condom to protect against HIV

London, Dec 11, 2012, PTI: 22:18 IST
Researchers have developed a female condom which they claim can protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV by dissolving inside the body and releasing chemicals.

Besides blocking the sperm, the condom could time-release a potent mix of anti-HIV drugs and hormonal contraceptives, the Daily Mail reported.

Experts claim the ‘discreet protection’ can safeguard people from HIV and unwanted pregnancy by ‘melting’ inside the body.

Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) developed the condom from tiny microfibres through a method called ‘electrospinning’.

The cloth-like fibres can be woven from medicine into extremely thin ‘webs’. They are then designed to dissolve after use, either within minutes or over several days.

The team was given USD 1 million to develop the technology, which uses an electric field to charge fluid through air to create the very fine, nanometre-sized fibres.

“Our dream is to create a product women can use to protect themselves from HIV infection and unintended pregnancy,” Kim Woodrow, a UW assistant professor of bioengineering, said.

“We have the drugs to do that. It’s really about delivering them in a way that makes them more potent, and allows a woman to want to use it,” Woodrow said.

“This method allows controlled release of multiple compounds. We were able to tune the fibres to have different release properties,” co-author Cameron Ball said.

One of the fabrics dissolves within minutes, offering users immediate protection, while another fabric dissolves gradually over a few days, providing an alternative to the birth-control pill, to provide contraception and protect against Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

While the researchers agree the technology is more discrete, they admit that people may have some doubts.

“At the time of sex, are people going to actually use it? That’s where having multiple options really comes into play,” Krogstad told the University of Washington.

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