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New Technology for Condoms - 01/23/2013

Are Nanotechnology Condoms More Effective than the Regular Ones? You’ve heard about the female condoms before. So far, they’re the only rubber protection meant for use by women. Today, however, there’s the so-called female condom created using nanotechnology. This was developed through the efforts of researchers from the University of Washington. They created the condom made from nanometer-size fibers. Utilizing an electric field, they combined the liquid form of polymers and drugs and spun them. The process of electrospinning resulted in very fine and stretchable fabric that can be dissolved when placed inside a woman’s reproductive organ. The idea of this nanotechnology condom is to prevent the transmission of infections often associated with sexual intercourse and to protect a woman against pregnancy. The researchers were also able to product two kinds of fabric through the process of electrospinning. One type dissolves in a matter of minutes thereby providing instant contraception while the other kind dissolves in several days. In another study, a medical microbiologist from University of Manitoba has found the use of silver nanoparticles as a new method to protect people against HIV and the Herpes virus. Silver has long been known to have some kind of disinfectant properties. What Dr. Xiaojian Yao and his team did was to use microscopic silver particles in coating condoms. When they tested the condoms by putting them in contact with HIV and Herpes, the viruses were inactivated. They also discovered that silver prevented the growth of bacteria and fungi and killed the T-cell and macrophage strains of HIV. The research is still in its initial stage hence it’s not certain whether it’s more effective than the regular condoms although Dr. Yao sees the great potential of these nanosilver particles. He said they are not clear yet as to how viruses are deactivated by the particles but he believes the ions could be getting into the virus and changing their proteins which eventually prevented them from causing infection. Dr. Yao and his team of researchers have already received a $1 million grant from the foundation of Bill and Melinda Gates to pursue the study and develop the technology. Unlike other recent condoms containing Nonoxynol-9 which were found to cause genital inflammation and ulceration, those with silver nanoparticles prevented inflammation based on the study. The researchers stressed that while certain silver ions are toxic, the nanoparticles are not. There’s also no risk of being exposed to them as the condom is disposed of immediately right after use. This new type of female condom should be used before any sexual act. It can be used inserted directly into the vagina or can used on a diaphragm or ring. With its potential, women now need not worry about getting pregnant or contracting STDs as they can use this advanced female condom. Nanotechnology also known as nanotech refers to the manipulation of matter on an atomic or molecular scale. It works with materials and decides in nanometer sizes. The U.S. through its National Nanotechnology Initiative has, so far, invested $3.7 billion on this. Investment from the European Union is pegged at $1.2 billion and while Japan has invested $750 million.

 

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