In a world first, a University of Melbourne study has shown that topical estrogen could help prevent HIV infection by blocking entry of the virus into the human penis.
[editor’s note] (Andrew): The only reason I’m not scrubbing this trash study off my website is to mock it.
First, there is no clinical application. Rather than a CONDOM, which costs nothing, works immediately, is everywhere, works for everyone, has no side effects, and prevents every STD up to and including pregnancy itself by almost 100%, I’m supposed to sagely ponder rubbing female hormones on my penis to “toughen it up” by “15%” which might increase my resistance to HIV a week later? And this is suggested as viable solution for AIDS control in countries with pervasive cultural taboos about the penis? Total, absolute bullshit.
Second, the sample size of this study is: TWO. Yes, two. Ok, eight if you include the foreskin donors. And the study only tested keratin coverage and presented some untested hypotheses regarding a couple tangential studies as conclusions regarding HIV prevention.
But good news for readers, because I’m awarding a Think Gene coffee mug to the first reader who forwards me a spam email hawking topical oestrogen as an “all natural” penis cream to “u last longr.”
The study to be published in PLoS ONE journal today reveals that application of estrogen to the human penis increased the thickness of the natural keratin layer on the skin, which could prevent HIV from infecting the male.
The epithelium of the human penis is richly supplied with estrogen receptors suggesting it could respond to topical estrogen.
Dr Andrew Pask from the Department of Zoology at the University of Melbourne analyzed the tissue samples from 12 foreskins and made the discovery.
“This suggested that estrogen could induce a thickening of the keratin layer of the foreskin epidermis in the same way as it acts in the vagina,” said Dr Pask.
“Keratin on our skin acts a barrier to viral infection. We hope to be able to enhance this protection with the use of a naturally occurring, weak estrogen,” said Professor Roger Short of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences who lead the research.
To confirm its effect, topical estrogen was applied to the human foreskin for a two week trial. This resulted in a rapid and substantial increase in keratin thickness.
“We have found a new avenue to possibly prevent HIV infection of the penis.”
HIV is one of the greatest health crises the world has ever seen, and affects over 40 million people worldwide.
Source: The University of Melbourne
Kevin: HIV is on the rise around the world and a treatment such as this could have impact where condoms are not socially acceptable because of adverse societal influence. Estrogen on the penis would be fine, and while it’s nothing like condoms for preventing HIV (and anti-retrovirals at your local free HIV drug stand) this could mean something in terms of harm reduction.