3D printing and nanomedicine combined to combat HIV – TheRecord.com

WATERLOO A University of Waterloo researcher is combining 3D printing and his expertise in nanomedicine to create a novel way to protect women from getting HIV.

Emmanuel Ho, an associate professor in UW's School of Pharmacy, is developing an intra-vaginal ring that would provide precise doses of medication that could stop HIV infection at the site of transmission.

"This will empower women to protect themselves," Ho said.

The ring is made of medical-grade plastic with hollow tubing and tiny pores. Medicine loaded into the ring, which is placed in the vagina, is slowly released and absorbed by the body.

Ho is testing a combination of anti-HIV and anti-inflammatory drugs. Inflammation in the vagina increases the risk of acquiring HIV because inflammation draws the immune cells that are infected by the virus.

"If a woman has high levels of inflammation in the genital tract, then the probability of HIV infection is much higher," said Ho's collaborator Keith Fowke, professor and head of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Manitoba.

Releasing anti-inflammation medication directly could reduce the risk, and then the anti-HIV medication could combat the virus if a woman is infected.

"It's kind of like a two-pronged approach," Ho said.

Intra-vaginal rings with a similar shape and design, such as NuvaRing, have been approved for birth control and hormone replacement therapy.

However, Ho said a 3D printed model allows for more precise design and drug delivery. It's also cheaper and avoids the waste from traditional manufacturing where melted polymers are poured into a mould.

Ho's ring could be used for a variety of medications, including hormonal contraceptives. Delivering it to the site would reduce the amount of medication needed, which would mean fewer side-effects.

Condoms and anti-HIV treatment are available to prevent HIV infection. But social and cultural factors can impede condom use, no to mention availability in developing countries, and oral medications need to be taken daily.

The ring would offer a discrete, effective and convenient approach.

"This would be a new option," Ho said.

The research recently got a grant from the Canadian government to move onto animal testing with the University of Manitoba and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, bringing it one step closer to reality from concept.

Globally, infection rates are on the rise for HIV the virus that causes AIDS and kills one million people globally each year, according to UNAIDS.

"There's a definite need," Ho said.


Twitter: @WeidnerRecord


Twitter: @WeidnerRecord

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