Researchers Create Hydrogel That Could Improve HIV Therapy Compared to Current Treatments


The hydrogel injection has had a lasting drug concentration of 42 days with almost no adverse effects.

Researchers have developed an injectable solution that can self-assemble into a gel in the right conditions to treat HIV. The role of the gel is to release a secure dose of the anti-HIV drug lamivudine in 6 weeks’ time—differing from the required daily pill schedule individuals must take to prevent AIDS.

Aids HIV Virus- Image credit: Ezume Images |

Image credit: Ezume Images |

The press release noted that the hydrogels have a jellylike consistency due to the water-absorbing assets. After it undertakes the self-formulation, the gel remains close to the injection site, separating into molecules to fight off the virus.

“The primary challenge in HIV treatment is the need for lifelong management of the virus, and one way to address this is to reduce dosing frequencies to help patients stick to medical regimens,” said Honggang Cui, PhD, a Johns Hopkins University chemical and biomolecular engineer who led the research. “This new molecular design shows us a future in which drug hydrogelation can do that to improve HIV treatment.”

Cui said that within individuals living with HIV, the goal is to maintain bloodstream drug levels that can suppress the virus load in the body. However, this can become difficult due to the body naturally pushing away the chemicals.

Cui and his team tested the treatment in test tubes that replicated plasma and found that the gel quickly separated into molecules of lamivudine. They then injected the gel into the backs of mice and found that 1 of the injections was able to maintain an effective and prolonged drug concentration for 42 days with little to no adverse effects.

“Our goal is to help improve people’s quality of life,” said Cui, in the press release. “The antiviral substance can be injected under the skin and remain in place over an extended period, releasing the therapeutic compound slowly and consistently—a critical need for individuals with HIV.”

In the future, the team intends on extending the 42-day period of drug concertation. The press release noted that the team plans to ensure that the hydrogel can work as a preventive measure for individuals to take to avoid HIV-infection.

“The most exciting aspect of these gel filaments is that they consist entirely of the therapeutic agent itself,” said Cui, in a press release. “Everything originates from the same compound after injection, and this simplest drug formulation could streamline the regulatory approval process once clinical efficacy is demonstrated.”


Could this new hydrogel make HIV therapy more convenient? EurekAlert!. News release. September 25, 2023. Accessed September 26, 2023.

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