Researchers at the University of Washington have been embedding medicines within the fibers of electrospun fabrics. By finely controlling how the fibers are spun, they have essentially come up with female condoms that can elute drugs to fight venereal diseases and help prevent pregnancies.
The fabric can be tuned to hold onto different sized molecules and release them at different rates. Since electrospinning does not involve high heat, different medicines could be used.
From University of Washington:
The fibers can be manipulated to control the material’s solubility, strength and even geometry. Because of this versatility, fibers may be better at delivering medicine than existing technologies such as gels, tablets or pills. No high temperatures are involved, so the method is suitable for heat-sensitive molecules. The fabric can also incorporate large molecules, such as proteins and antibodies, that are hard to deliver through other methods.
They first dissolved polymers approved by the Food and Drug Administration and antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV to create a gooey solution that passes through a syringe. As the stream encounters the electric field it stretches to create thin fibers measuring 100 to several thousand nanometers that whip through the air and eventually stick to a collecting plate (one nanometer is about one 25-millionth of an inch). The final material is a stretchy fabric that can physically block sperm or release chemical contraceptives and antivirals.
One of the fabrics they made dissolves within minutes, potentially offering users immediate, discrete protection against unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Another dissolves gradually over a few days, providing an option for sustained delivery, more like the birth-control pill, to provide contraception and guard against HIV.
The fabric could incorporate many fibers to guard against many different sexually transmitted infections, or include more than one anti-HIV drug to protect against drug-resistant strains (and discourage drug-resistant strains from emerging). Mixed fibers could be designed to release drugs at different times to increase their potency, like the prime-boost method used in vaccines.
The electrospun cloth could be inserted directly in the body or be used as a coating on vaginal rings or other products.
UW press release: Electrically spun fabric offers dual defense against pregnancy, HI
Study in PLoS ONE: Drug-Eluting Fibers for HIV-1 Inhibition and Contraception