The Chemical Condom

Written by: Captain Skellett // August 21st, 2009 // Recent Research, Sex and Reproduction

Liquid Condom - Do Not Try at Home

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!

Chemical Condom
“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.

HIV Prevalence as at 2008

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.

Wedding Dress of Condoms - Be Clear on Where You Stand

Captain Skellett

I be Captain Skellett. Me blog started in April 2009 when I was working full time and didn’t get a chance to talk science. Now I have changed jobs and talk science all the time, but that doesn’t stop me blogging. More About Captain Skellett   Google


3 Responses to “The Chemical Condom”

  1. gem says:

    once i saw a dress made from contraceptive pills all sown together. it was a strange thing to see in a bookstore.

  2. Murfomurf says:

    Hadn’t seen this research before- thanks for the update! I wonder what male friends with HIV might think about this invention, since some of them would like to have sex without a condom (or any sex at all for most of them) and this might be the go! I wonder how they managed to get a gel to form with the right-sized holes? amazing! and hey! isn’t great for snippets from a place that rarely gets mentioned in our news. I have a young contact in Nigeria with whom I try to communicate and keeps me informed of a few of the things which might be impacting his life- like the dreadful floods in Nigeria recently.

    Captain Skellett Reply:

    Yeah, it’s really interesting! Still pretty far down the track in terms of buying it off the shelf though, but hopefully they make it through clinical trials. I think they must have played around with a lot of different chemicals to find two that linked together so tightly under the right conditions – chemistry like that never ceases to amaze me.

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