UW researchers develop new HIV topical preventative for women

Bioengineers from the University of Washington (UW) have developed a medicated, disappearing fabric-like preventative that could protect women from contracting HIV.

In their search for a topical preventative for women, the researchers from UW discovered a method that spins a drug into silk-like fibers that rapidly dissolve when exposed to moisture, releasing higher doses of the drug than possible with other anti-HIV creams and gels, Science Daily reports.

"This could offer women a potentially more effective, discreet way to protect themselves from HIV infection by inserting the drug-loaded materials into the vagina before sex," Cameron Ball, a UW doctoral student in bioengineering, said, according to Science Daily.

Fiber materials can hold 10 times the amount of medicine as other gels and creams under development. Topical drugs like anti-HIV gels and creams, however, have not done well in clinical trials because they can sometimes be difficult for women to use.

"The effectiveness of an anti-HIV topical drug depends partially on high-enough dosages and quick release," Ball said, Science Daily reports. "We have achieved higher drug loading in our material such that you wouldn't need to insert a large amount of these fibers to deliver enough of the drug to be helpful."

A process called electrospinning was used to create the fibrous drug material-a polymer was combined with the drug maraviroc, which is currently used to treat symptoms of HIV in patients infected with the virus, and other materials to make the "fabric" more water-soluble.

After being charged with a high-voltage generator, the substance is passed through a syringe, during which the charge on the substance's surface causes the formation of a long string from the syringe that spins before collecting on a grounded surface, according to Science Daily.

"We think the fiber platform technology has the capability of being developed into multifunctional medical fabrics that address simultaneously challenges related to biological efficacy and user preferences," Kim Woodrow, a bioengineering assistant professor at UW, said, Science Daily reports.