A new type of male contraceptive might be on its way to local stores, and unlike traditional methods of male birth control, this one is completely reversible, as reported by Science Alert.
For as long as we can remember, males have only ever used two methods to prevent their partners from getting pregnant while having sex: condoms and “the snip.”
But now there’s Vasalgel, a new male contraceptive that could change the game in terms of birth control on account of its effectiveness and the fact that its effects can be fully reversed.
Parsemus Foundation, a non-profit company based in California which aims to “find low cost solutions that have been neglected by the pharmaceutical industry,” made it all possible by developing a special polymer gel which can be injected into the vans deferens (the thin tube between the testes and the ejaculatory ducts where the sperm passes through after ejaculation). Once injected, the gel serves as a barricade to the sperm, thus preventing pregnancy.
Earlier animal trials have already been conducted to test if the male contraceptive gel is safe and effective. Back in February, Science Alert reported that the gel was able to prevent rhesus monkeys from getting pregnant for up to two years.
While using an agent that blocks sperms sounds simple enough, scientists had to take account numerous considerations to make the male contraceptive gel viable for human use. First, the material needs to be inert. Precision is also crucial since the material needs to be injected into a small space (the vans deferens). Third, it needs to stay in one place so that it can block the passage of sperm for a long time. Lastly, it needs to successfully filter out spermatozoa without blocking the passage of fluids.
Parsemus Foundation was able to manage all these considerations, and last year, they conducted trials on a dozen rabbits. After the procedure, no pregnancies occurred among the creatures in the first 13 months.
While some changes in the cells lining the vasa deferentia were noted, it was confirmed that they were not serious.
The results of the Vasalgel reversibility study in rabbits indicate the implant could be removed resulting in the quick return of sperm flow.
“We were pleased that the number of sperm and their motility after reversal were no different from baseline measures,” said Dr. Donald Waller, lead author of the study.
“More flushing during reversal may be needed to remove traces of the gel from the vas deferens, which appeared to impact other sperm characteristics,” he added.
The idea of a reversible male contraceptive wasn’t new. In fact, a similar gel plug called reversible inhibition under guidance (RISUG) was developed and subsequently greenlit for trials in India. Unfortunately, there were not enough volunteers, so it didn’t make it through human trials.
Parsemus Foundation is hoping to test the new male contraceptive gel next year. And now that the product has been proven to be fully irreversible, perhaps there will be more human volunteers by then.
At present, Parsemus Foundation’s goal is to release Vasalgel to the public as soon as possible so that it could serve as an alternative to vasectomy. According to the organization’s official website, the first clinical trial is expected to begin in 2018.
The development of Vasagel started out as a “social venture” from a company that aims to mass distribute a cheaper alternative to traditional male contraceptives. The company, however, doesn’t have enough money to finish the project and has launched fundraising campaigns that will help them fund pre-clinical studies that will make the first human trial possible.
The company also claims that big pharma isn’t interested in their product since it’s more profitable to sell pills to women every month, as previously reported by The Independent.
[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]