Miracle for Women? New Vaginal Gel Blocks HIV

By Boonsri Dickinson | August 11, 2009 1:58 pm

condom1.jpgCondoms are effective at preventing HIV infection, but they are not foolproof: They can break, be used ineffectively, or not be used at all. Now, University of Utah scientists are developing a “molecular condom” gel that could help women eliminate (or, at least, reduce)  the remaining and persistent risk of HIV infection.

The gel would be inserted into the vagina, and would turn semisolid when semen touches it, responding to pH levels in the vaginal tissues and forming a mesh of cross-linked polymers to trap the virus. It might also prevent other STDs like herpes and HPV, and even act as a means of birth control. All a woman would need to do is insert the gel a few hours before sex. Science Daily reports:

“The first step in the complicated process of HIV infection in a woman is the virus diffusing from semen to vaginal tissue. We want to stop that first step,” says Patrick Kiser, an associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Utah’s College of Engineering. “We have created the first vaginal gel designed to prevent movement of the AIDS virus. This is unique. There’s nothing like it.”

With infection in women soaring as high as 60 percent in areas like sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia, the power to wear condoms ultimately rests in the hands of their partners. This new gel could potentially give the women more control over their own infection rates.

Clinical trials will begins in a few years—and while we’ll remain hopeful, it’s hard to forget the disappointing path that other microbicides trials have taken, by not preventing HIV and even increasing the risk of its transmission.

Related Content:
80beats: HIV Vaccine?
80beats: Trial Canceled Set Back For AIDS Research

Image: flickr/ chi cowboy

  • http://materialsviews.com materialsdave

    If you’re interested in learning more about the science behind the story, you can read the original Advanced Functional Materials paper for free at http://ow.ly/jEMR

    Dave Flanagan, Editor-in-Chief, Advanced Functional Materials

  • Ian

    “With infection in women soaring as high as 60 percent in areas like sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia, the power to wear condoms ultimately rests in the hands of their partners.”

    This comment displays an ignorance of the situation in these areas. Rape is common place – it’s the rape that needs to stop.

  • http://deleted Rasselas

    True, a woman who is raped wouldn’t have time for the gel. If the gel could act within minutes, she might be able to ask for permission to do such. If it could exist for weeks on end in the vagina (without causing health problems or such) it might be feasible. Not all of that 60% is rape, and of that rape, much is scheduled rape (happens at night by the spouse). It is also something that people need watches to monitor the time lapse. It is a step forward though. And a technological step. It is hard to argue against technological improvements on the ground that a moral or political (etc) step is more practical… because we as scientists are not preachers or politicians… and still desire to do what we can.

    Perhaps though a technological aid may be given (like 911 signaling devices) to rape victims.

    You do correctly bring out the point that some times a technological (or such) solution can detract from more pragmatic solutions… but hopefully this would not be the case.

  • MEGANERASMUS9

    I THINK IT IS A VERY NICE PRODUCT BUT I WOULD JUST LIKE TO KN
    OW WHERE I CAN GET IT

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