HIV virions (individual HIV particles), which are less than half the size of the nanoparticle, will be captured and destroyed with special molecules attached to the nanobees that bind to complementary molecules on the virion that play a role in initiating HIV fusion to cells.
Although these nanoparticles have been proven safe in the body, they are too large to move outside the vaginal vault, and will remain on site in surveillance for sperm and HIV until washed out by the body's natural fluids.
"We believe this can succeed because both sperm and HIV are built to target, fuse and discharge their cargo," Wickline says. "Our nanoparticles are similarly built to target, fuse and deliver their cargo. These attributes will enable a process of mutual assured destruction in a sequestered biological environment."
If successful, Wickline's idea could have enormous benefits for women, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, a region that accounted for 68 percent of new HIV infections among adults in 2008. Women and girls in this area continue to be affected disproportionately in some countries up to four times higher than males.
Sub-Saharan Africa also has the world's highest fertility rate -- 5.6 children per woman and twice the world average. The region's population is expected to increase to 1.6 billion people by 2050 unless women are empowered to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
A contributing factor to the vulnerability of women to both HIV and unintended pregnancy in sub-Saharan Africa is fear of violence from male partners if condom use is suggested. This technology could enable women to protect themselves without the need to seek approval from male partners.
While bringing the technology forward for clinical use by women would require many months of testing, the concept is supported by a r
|Contact: Joni Westerhouse|
Washington University in St. Louis