Finally, the researchers at the University of Washington developed a new contraceptive that for the first time can protect women from sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
An electrically spun nanofabric, the technology is designed to dissolve in the body, releasing preventative drugs. The goal: to empower women to make their own reproductive choices safely and cheaply.
The present contraceptive methods, including the female condom, do not provide complete discretion.
To date, no single product exists that women can use discreetly for simultaneous and effective prevention of STIs (including HIV) and contraception.
The researchers used electrospinning, a method of creating fibers from liquid in an electric field. The fibers are easily manipulated to control material properties like solubility, strength and shape. After the dissolved polymers and antiretrovirals form fibers in the electric field, they stick to a collecting plate.
The researchers are then left with a stretchy fabric that functions in quite a few ways. It can be inserted directly in the body or act as a coating on vaginal rings or other contraceptive products. It blocks sperm and can release chemical contraceptives and antivirals. The scientists created fabrics that dissolve in minutes for immediate protection and others that dissolve over a few days for sustained delivery. Mixing fibers into one nanofabric could yield both results.