A new dissolving fabric could prevent HIV

Well, this is a bit clever. Bioengineers have developed a new form of HIV protection for women that comes in the form of a dissolving fabric.

A team from the University of Washington created the material by dissolving a polymer and mixing it with maraviroc, an antiretroviral drug currently prescribed for patients with HIV. They then put this mixture in a syringe and passed an electrical charge through it, which caused it to whirl around and then cluster on the nearest grounded surface.

Using this process, called electrospinning, the scientists made a palm-sized square of fabric in around five minutes. Regardless of the dose of medication they infused it with, they were able to dissolve the drug-coated material in water within six minutes.

They say that this fabric could be rolled into a tampon-style applicator or vaginal ring that women could insert shortly before having sex. It would be absorbed by the body, providing protection from HIV.

There are other HIV preventatives being developed and tested, but most are gels that require a large dose in order to work. This makes them messy and impractical to use, and it’s hard to know if you’re using the right amount each time. They also need 10 times the dose and more than twice the time as the dissolving fabric to take effect.

The Washington team is now testing electrospinning with different HIV medications, and plan to eventually move on to human clinical trials. Until then, we can always take a quick trip to the US for some STD-killing condoms.

Image via Tony Hisgett’s Flickr.

Diane Shipley

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