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Scientists have developed a new lubricant, in the form of a gel, that can protect against the transmission of diseases such as HIV and herpes. The basis of the lubricant comes from mucus that the researchers found in cows. More precisely, it is the substance mucin in the mucus that the researchers used.
"The natural complexity of the mucin molecules is the reason why the synthetic gel is so effective in stopping HIV and herpes, without the risk of side effects or the development of resistance as when other antiviral compounds are used. A gel with this disease-stopping function would be difficult to achieve with a polymer that we developed completely from scratch", says Hongji Yan, biomaterials researcher at KTH and one of the researchers behind the study, in a press release.
Simply put, it works so that the mucin molecules bind to and capture virus particles, which are then cleared away through active mucus turnover. In the lab tests carried out by the researchers, it was found that the lubricant provided 70 percent protection against HIV and 80 percent against herpes.
The researchers now hope that their discovery will be available as a product in the future.
"The gel can help more people take greater control of their sexual health. It can provide protection when condoms are not an available option, or as back-up protection if the condom breaks or is used incorrectly. The gel could be used both when a woman and a man have sex, or when two men have it,” says Hongji Yan.