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New hydrogel condom design includes anti-HIV antioxidants

The latex-free condom will prevent pregnancy, the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, and make sex more enjoyable, said its designers at Texas A&M University.

By
Stephen Feller
Dr. Mahua Choudhury, left, an assistant professor at the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, works with professional student pharmacist Jason Chau and research assistant Yudisthar Singh Bedi while designed the hydrogel condom that could help limit the spread of HIV. Photo by Texas A&M University
Dr. Mahua Choudhury, left, an assistant professor at the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, works with professional student pharmacist Jason Chau and research assistant Yudisthar Singh Bedi while designed the hydrogel condom that could help limit the spread of HIV. Photo by Texas A&M University

COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- As part of an international effort to increase use of condoms as a way to prevent the spread of the HIV and AIDS, researchers at Texas A&M University developed a new non-latex condom that is expected to kill the virus even if the condom breaks.

The condom is made of an elastic polymer called hydrogel, and includes plant-based antioxidants that have anti-HIV properties.

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The researchers were one of 56 groups chosen out of 1,700 applicants for a Grand Challenge in Global Health award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to design a cheap, latex-free condom.

"If you can make it really affordable, and really appealing, it could be a life-saving thing," said Dr. Mahua Choudhury, an assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy at Texas A&M University, in a press release. "Some people are allergic to latex, and others are just not comfortable with it. Therefore, we wanted to create a novel material."

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The condom material already exists, researchers said, as a water-based hydrogel for medical purposes such as contact lenses. In addition to protecting against STDs and pregnancy, researchers enmeshed in the hydrogel design the antioxidant quercetin, which can prevent the replication of HIV. Should the condom break, the quercetin would be released for additional protection.

Researchers hope the condom will enjoy greater use -- and have a stronger effect at preventing the spread of HIV -- because quercetin also can enhance sex because of it promotes smooth muscle relaxation, arterial blood flow, and can hep to stimulate and maintain erections.

"If we succeed, it will revolutionize the HIV prevention initiative," Choudhury said. "We are not only making a novel material for condoms to prevent the HIV infection, but we are also aiming to eradicate this infection if possible."

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The hydrogel condom design is currently being reviewed for a patent, and researchers said they expect to begin testing the condom sometime in the next six months.

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