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Jan 02, 2014 08:37 AM EST

Boston Students to Develop Unbreakable and Better Functioning Condoms

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The department of radiology at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) have been selected to develop an unbreakable and efficient condom to make them more appealing to use. These contraceptives are being developed to prevent the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and to also avoid unwanted pregnancy.

This project is a part of Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) programs, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. GCE funds worldwide ideas centred on pressing global health issues.

Condoms, which have been in use for over 400 years now, have been reported to decrease pleasure during intercourse.

In an attempt to increase sales of condoms, Karen Buch (MD, a third year radiology resident at BMC) and Ducksoo Kim (MD, professor of radiology at BUSM and director of the vascular and interventional radiology fellowship at BMC) have been challenged to develop an innovative, strong male condom that has the lower risk of breaking, while providing increased sensation and comfort.

Through the $100,000 grant, the BUSM/BMC researchers aim to develop a new type of nanoparticle polymer coating, called hydrophilic coating, for condoms that will reduce the risk of breakage, making them more durable and better functioning.

"We are honored to be a recipient of a GCE grant project in order to examine this important public health issue," said Buch and Kim. "We look forward to using nanotechnology to create a condom that is both effective and does not diminish sensation, which could help convince more people to use condoms and potentially reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted infections," Boston Magazine reports.

Buch and Kim will work together to create a future generation of male condoms with a coating of superhydrophilic nanoparticles (tiny particles that trap water) and make them more resilient, easier to use, and preserve or enhance sexual pleasure.

 "We believe that by altering the mechanical forces experienced by the condom, we may ultimately be able to make a thinner condom which reduces friction, thereby reducing discomfort associated with friction [and] increases pleasure, thereby increasing condom use and decreases rates of unwanted pregnancy and infection transmission," Kim said.

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