Male contraceptive gel found effective at preventing pregnancy

Male contraceptive gel found effective at preventing pregnancy

An experimental gel injected into the sperm ducts of primates has been found effective at preventing pregnancy, a development that has brought the prospect of an alternative form of birth control for male humans closer.

A number of birth control options already exist for women, but men have to go under the knife for family planning. Thus, scientists around the globe are trying hard to find a way to provide men with an effective non-surgical, reversible contraceptive.

In an experiment conducted at the California National Primate Research Center, sixteen adult male monkeys were treated with Vasalgel, a polymer gel that was injected directly into their vas deferens. The gel created a blockage in the tube which transports sperms from the testes out through the penis.

The journal Basic & Clinical Andrology reported, “Treated males have had no conceptions since Vasalgel injections … The presence of Vasalgel appears to be well tolerated and placement resulted in minimal complications.”

The only non-surgical solutions available to men are condoms and withdrawal before ejaculation. But, condoms interfere with sex, while withdrawal before ejaculation comes with a high risk of pregnancy.

Longer term solution is a vasectomy that involves cutting or tying the person’s sperm-conducting tubes known as vas deferens. Vasectomies can be reversed, but this surgical procedure is technically challenging as well as leads to low fertility rates.

The research team further informed, "Sixteen adult male rhesus monkeys received intravas injections of Vasalgel, consisting of 25% styrene maleic acid in dimethyl sulfoxide. After a one-week recovery, males were returned to outdoor group housing, which included at least 3 and up to 9 intact, breeding females with a successful reproductive history. Intravas injection of Vasalgel in sexually mature adult male rhesus monkeys was effective in preventing conception in a free-living, group environment. Complications were few and similar to those associated with traditional vasectomy."

As per MIC article on the project, "Before Vasalgel can be tested on humans, further trials will be needed to determine whether or not the product is indeed reversible and to confirm that it's safe. So far, the main obstacle to bringing a male contraceptive to market has been cost — it's more lucrative for pharmaceutical companies to continue to fund female contraceptives, rather than to let that existing market be cannibalized by man-specific products."

A report published by BBC informed, "Vasalgel has the same end effect as vasectomy, but researchers hope it should be easier to reverse if a man later decides he wants to have children. Another experimental male birth control gel - RISUG (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance) - that works in a similar way to Vasalgel is being tested in men in India. Both gels are given as an injection, under anaesthetic, and are meant to offer long-acting contraception."