The Next Generation Condom: Beef

I bet you didn’t know that people used to use cat gut as a contraceptive. Yea, that’s right. Cat gut. Intestines. A little weird when compared to modern latex or rubber, yet they all have their faults. And now that problem is solved. With beef tendon.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is offering $100,000 to each 11 ideas designed to reinvent the condom. The Gates Foundation offered the prize to scientists back in March to design a condom that people would actually want to use and would “significantly preserve or enhance pleasure.” The motivation behind this is quite noble, as the Gates Foundation is one biggest supporters of global health and aims to reduce the levels of sexually transmitted viruses such as HIV or unwanted pregnancies.

The competition has received more than 800 entries, which were narrowed down to 11 winning proposals, focusing on being thin and strong. Studies have shown that men are more likely to use a condom that they don’t notice, but still needs to be tough enough to not break or allow pathogens to pass through.

Another winning proposal utilizes a material that shrinks when it warms up on the body so it provides a perfect fit. A different team combined opening the condom package with application in a single quick motion, so there’s no more fumbling in the dark.

Chemical engineer Mark McGlothin of Apex Medical Technologies explains that “current condoms always have a plastic feeling, and we wanted to make a condom you don’t feel when you have intercourse.” Which is why he invented a condom that is made of the same material in animal tendons and ligaments: long fibers of protein called collagen. “We take raw collagen from beef tendons or fish scraps, and gingerly separate out the fibers,” he says. “We form it into a condom and when it dries down, it looks like sausage casing.” The result is a material that almost feels like wet skin. “It’s a totally different sensation than a latex condom. It’s like rubbing your hand on a real leather car seat versus one with fake leather.”

Of course, all of these ideas are in the early stages of design and development. Inventors will still have to develop working prototypes and test them before they can even be considered to be produced for public use.

Maybe next year we’ll find some interesting packages in the meat and dairy section of our local grocery store.


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