London, Dec 11 (IANS) Researchers have developed a female condom that not only provides contraception but can also protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and conveniently dissolves gradually over a few days.
Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) developed the condom from tiny microfibres through a method called 'electrospinning'. They are then designed to dissolve after use, either within minutes or over several days.
Not only would the condom block sperm, it could time-release a potent mix of anti-HIV drugs and hormonal contraceptives, the Daily Mail reported.
Kim Woodrow, assistant professor of bio-engineering at Washington, said: "Our dream is to create a product women can use to protect themselves from HIV infection and unintended pregnancy. We have the drugs to do that. It's really about delivering them in a way that makes them more potent, and allows a woman to want to use it."
Woodrow presented the idea, and co-authors Emily Krogstad and Cameron Ball, both first-year graduate students, agreed to pursue the project, at a meeting held last year.
Ball added: "This method allows controlled release of multiple compounds. We were able to tune the fibres to have different release properties."
One of the fabrics dissolves within minutes, offering users immediate protection, while another fabric dissolves gradually over a few days, providing an alternative to the birth-control pill, to provide contraception and protect against HIV.