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The female hormone, estrogen can help prevent the spread of HIV infection among men, say a group of Aussie researchers, who blocked the entry of the virus into the penis by creating “living condom".
HIV affects over 40 million people worldwide and is on the rise particularly in countries where males are not circumcised.
The study, conducted by University of Melbourne researchers, showed that applying the female hormone estrogen to the penis increases the thickness of the natural keratin layer in the skin.
Dr Andrew Pask made the discovery after analysing tissue samples from 12 foreskins and finding the lining of the human penis was richly supplied with estrogen receptors.
Topical estrogen was applied to the foreskin in a two-week trial, which resulted in a rapid and substantial increase in keratin thickness.
Lead researcher Professor Roger Short, of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, said using naturally occurring, weak estrogen could enhance keratin protection.
"We have found a new avenue to possibly prevent HIV infection of the penis," The Australian quoted him, as saying.
"In countries where circumcision is not religiously or culturally accepted, estrogen treatments to the penis could be very effective in reducing the spread of the disease," he added.
The study is published in PLoS ONE journal.