It’s a gel, it’s a solid, it’s CHEMICAL CONDOM! (Not shown above, above is something weird and I don’t recommend it)
Still in the experimental stages, researchers at the University of Utah have designed what may one day be a chemical condom. You kind of smear this liquid stuff inside yourself (I’m guessing) and at body temperature it becomes a gel. When it encounters semen (which is slightly basic) the rise in pH causes it to cross-link into a solid net-type thing which stops sperm in their tracks.
The crosslinks are tiny – the “holes” in between are only 30-50 nanometers wide. As shown in the picture, it also stops HIV, which is more like 100 nanometers wide – definately a bonus!
“The gel here has been stained blue, and has formed tendril structures at pH 7.4. The red dots are 100 nanometer particles, about the same size as HIV, which are trapped in these structures. Credit: Kristopher Langheinrich.”
This is great news for African countries, because it puts power over contraception in the hands of women who otherwise have a hard-time convincing a guy to put on a condom (reference!) Plus it has the huge benefit of preventing HIV transmission in a region where infection is already high.
They are considering combining the formula with an antiviral which is also released when it encounters semen, so it’s kind of like using fly-paper. It’s netting prevents escape, and the poison makes the final kill – the old one-two. It’s not the first time they have tried making a female chemical condom, but some of the older models had the unfortunate side-effect of attracting the very same members of the immune system that HIV targets – the T-cells.
So far they have only done tissue trials on the chemical condom, so it’s still a number of years from being available off the shelf. Until then, why not make a statement and wear a wedding dress made entirely from condoms! Individual dyed and hand-sewn, that’s a quality use for a prophylactic.