Electrospun fibers for the prevention of human immunodeficiency virus
Ball, Cameron Scott
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HIV/AIDS education, testing, and treatment have thus far failed to cease the pandemic spread of the HIV virus. HIV prevention is hindered by a lack of protective options beyond the ABC approach of abstinence, being faithful, and using condoms. One approach to address this inadequacy is to develop antiviral products for vaginal or rectal application that provide receptive partner-initiated protection against viral infection during sex. Such products, termed anti-HIV microbicides, can especially empower young women to take control over their sexual health. This work explored a new approach to anti-HIV microbicides: electrospun fibers for the delivery of small-molecule antiretroviral drugs. Electrospun microbicides are nonwoven fabrics made from polymer-based nanofibers. The wide array of polymers available for electrospinning allowed for the incorporation and release of chemically diverse agents. Since electrospun fibers have an extremely high surface area to volume ratio, they serve as excellent delivery systems for rapid drug delivery of both hydrophilic and hydrophobic agents. The flexibility in the design of electrospun fibers afforded by coaxial electrospinning further enabled the formulation of sustained-release microbicides. To demonstrate the power of electrospinning to deliver drugs over multiple timescales, composite microbicide fabrics were created to provide both rapid and sustained drug release from a single device. This work has produced alternative microbicide formulations, while establishing methods for the thorough characterization of these systems and solutions for the needs of people at risk of HIV infection. By addressing problems in both HIV prevention and drug delivery, this work has expanded our capacity to engineer elegant solutions to complex and pressing global health challenges.
- Bioengineering