Andy Issacson covers the Gates Foundation’s push for a better condom:
“The undeniable and unsurprising truth is that most men prefer sex without a condom, while the risks related to HIV infections or unplanned pregnancies are disproportionately borne by their partners,” said Dr. Papa Salif Sow, a senior program officer on the HIV team at the Gates Foundation. “The common analogy is that wearing a condom is like taking a shower with a raincoat on. A redesigned condom that overcomes inconvenience, fumbling, or perceived loss of pleasure would be a powerful weapon in the fight against poverty.” Many of the grantees are tackling the sensation problem by turning to materials other than latex.
Among other materials being tested are beef tendons:
If the Holy Grail is to simulate human skin, then by a certain logic, animal tendons make perfect sense. Mark McGlothlin, of Apex Medical Technologies, in San Diego, will use his grant to produce a male condom using collagen fibrils from cow tendons, a material he’d once investigated as an alternative to latex in the mid-1980s at the height of the AIDS epidemic. (He eventually put out a polyurethane condom instead, which stayed on the market for 15 years.) “A lot people are trying to get stronger and thinner material—that was always my focus,” he said the other day. “But the texture of collagen is very much like the mucous membrane: The feel of it, the heat transfer of it, and to the touch, it feels very much like skin.” As McGlothlin explained, you can think of collagen condoms as a bio-safe, micro-thin cow leather, without the nasty tanning chemicals.
(Photo: Material made from beef tendon by Apex Medical Technologies)