The male contraceptive gel has passed first-stage testing with great success in monkey trials. The gel, known as Vasalgel, is injected into the sperm ducts and acts as a physical barrier by preventing sperm from swimming down to the penis.
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BBC News Online reports the company behind the gel has conducted a two-year trial, and results published in Basic and Clinical Andrology show that Vasalgel not only works, but it’s safe in trials conducted on monkeys, at least.
The company hopes to begin testing on men within a few years and, if those tests go well, and funding is approved, it will seek approval to make the gel readily available to men by 2020. Vasalgel would be the first new male contraceptive available to men in many decades.
Currently, there are two contraceptive options available to men: either have a vasectomy or wear a condom. While a vasectomy is designed to be permanent, it’s true that some men have been able to reverse the operation. Vasalgel will have the same end result as a vasectomy, but should a man decide later that he wants to father children, researchers are hopeful the reversal process will be quite simple. The intention is that the gel plug would be dissolved with another injection, and although the desired effect worked in testing with rabbits, researchers have not yet studied the results in monkeys or humans.
Of course, the idea behind the male contraceptive Vasalgel is not entirely new, and another experimental male birth control gel is currently being tested on men in India. The RISUG (Reversible Inhibition of Sperm under Guidance) gel works in much the same way as Vasalgel, but according to the manufacturer, Vasalgel doesn’t impair the swimming sperm; it simply blocks their path while letting other fluid through.
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Both these experimental gels are given under anesthetic as an injection and are designed to offer long-acting contraception.
Researchers at the University of California successfully tested the male contraceptive Vasalgel on 16 adult male monkeys. Alan Pacey is Professor of Andrology at the University of Sheffield, and he believes that human trials and further long-term safety studies are required.
“The study shows that, in adult male monkeys at least, the gel is an effective form of contraception. But in order for it to have a chance of replacing the traditional surgical method of vasectomy, the authors need to show that the procedure is reversible.”
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Professor Pacey said that at this point in time pharmaceutical companies had shown very little interest in this type of contraceptive approach. The Parsemus Foundation, which is the non-profit company researching the male contraceptive Vasalgel, has had to use fundraising and grants just to get this far.
“The idea of a social venture company to develop the idea is intriguing. I would imagine there is a worldwide market for a new male contraceptive, but trials in humans and more long-term safety data are required before we will know if it is a success.”
Experts believe that, in terms of willingness, men would welcome the opportunity to try a new form of contraception.
Dr. Anatole Menon-Johansson represents the sexual health charity Brook, and he believes that, generally, men want to be part of the solution.
“If you can have more options available, then maybe more men would go for it.”
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The BBC also reported back in September 2016, that Vasalgel is being given the title, The Male Pill, when in fact, it’s likely to be an injection. Vasalgel would be injected into the sperm ducts, and it’s possible the gel could outlast the IUD. When tested on rabbits, it was as effective as a vasectomy (around 99 per cent), but compared to a vasectomy, this type of contraception will be (in theory) easily reversible.
Today, Vasalgel is being called the most acceptable form of long-term male contraceptive ever conceived. When men were polled by researchers in Germany as to whether they would use a contraceptive that was capable of preventing sperm production, more than half of those asked said yes.
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