'Smart' Segmented Ring Device Delivers Medications To Stop H
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Researchers have designed a device that delivers two medications that help stop HIV transmission. The team is working to design a device that can be used by sex workers and in situations where women are not in a position to negotiate condom use. The device is an intravaginal ring (IVR ) that can be inserted into the female genital tract where it will deliver medications known to decrease the transmission of HIV.

The researchers examined how effectively their IVR delivered two medications—hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), an FDA approved medication, and a nanomedicine gene therapy developed by the team in previous research. The ring is made of medical-grade plastic and contains two segmented sections. One section is solid and coated in a pH-sensitive polymer that releases the customized gene-therapy treatment specifically during sexual intercourse.

The other half is a hollow ring with tiny pores that releases HCQ slowly over twenty-five days. The HCQ is the first line of defence that reduces the immune cell activation. Doing this buys time for the gene therapy treatment which comes in specifically during sexual intercourse to further suppress the expression of cellular receptors that HIV cells attach to.

The researchers wanted to have a system that can be placed in the vaginal tract but that only acts when there is sexual intercourse. The presence of semen increases the pH of the genital tract. Therefore, they designed the smart gene-therapy segment of the IVR to detect that change in pH and to release the nanomedicine at that point in time only.

The unique, segmented design of the IVR is effective. In lab tests, the HCQ segment successfully released the drug slowly and effectively over 25 days and the gene therapy segment responded to the presence of seminal fluid simulant by releasing 20 times more nanomedicine than was released in an environment of only vaginal fluid simulant.

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