Could engineered fatty particles help prevent AIDS?

Liposomes block HIV infection in early tests; could be a cost-effective preventive for developing countries.

October 1, 2011 16:05
1 minute read.

aids. (photo credit: courtesy msr, sheba)

Researchers have introduced a new way for women to protect themselves before sex and therefore reducing the risk of spreading AIDS.

The applicator filled with specially formulated fatty particles called liposomes will help protect women, researchers at Children's Hospital Boston say.

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Liposomes were found to inhibit HIV infection in cell culture and appeared safe in female mice when injected intravaginally, according to research carried out by Daniel Kohane, MD, PhD, director of the Laboratory for Biomaterials and Drug Delivery at Children's Hospital Boston.

To the surprise of researchers, liposomes alone were found to be effective in blocking infection even though they have the option of being filled with drugs and other compounds.

"We had been planning do much more complex things, like putting ligands on the surface to increase binding to HIV," says Kohane. "It was a surprise that liposomes alone worked so well. Simplicity is always better – if liposomes work by themselves, we may not need anything else, and it would be cheaper and potentially much safer."

"This research makes an important contribution towards creating a safe and effective form of HIV prevention for women," says Nikita Malavia, PhD, the study's first author, who worked in Kohane's lab and in the lab of Robert Langer, ScD, of MIT. "Women in areas such as sub-Saharan Africa often cannot control their male partners' use of condoms, making them three times more likely to be HIV-positive than men. This technology could enable women to take control in their own hands."

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