Re­searchers com­plete suc­cess­ful re­ver­sal of male con­tra­cep­tive

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY LAURA KELLY

What once re­quired a lit­tle snip could soon be ac­com­plished with a pin­prick, as re­searchers ex­plore a non­sur­gi­cal method for va­sec­tomies for a long-term so­lu­tion for birth con­trol for men.

Re­searchers have de­vel­oped a poly­mer gel called Vasal­gel that can be in­jected into the vas def­er­ens to block the trans­fer of sperm cells from the testes to the ure­thra.

A study pub­lished Tues­day in the Jour­nal of Ba­sic and Clin­i­cal An­drol­ogy noted that the re­searchers have con­cluded a suc­cess­ful re­ver­sal of the pro­ce­dure in rab­bits, restor­ing their fer­til­ity.

“The re­sults of the Vasal­gel re­versibil­ity study in rab­bits in­di­cate the im­plant could be re­moved re­sult­ing in a quick re­turn of sperm flow,” the study’s lead au­thor, Don­ald Waller, said in a state­ment re­leased by the Parse­mus Foun­da­tion, which funds the study.

To re­verse the pro­ce­dure, re­searchers in­jected a bak­ing soda-like so­lu­tion to flush out the gel.

“We were pleased that the num­ber of sperm and their motil­ity af­ter re­ver­sal were no dif­fer­ent from base­line mea­sures. More flush­ing dur­ing re­ver­sal may be needed to re­move traces of the gel from the vas def­er­ens, which ap­peared to im­pact other sperm char­ac­ter­is­tics,” the study notes.

The Parse­mus Foun­da­tion is a Cal­i­for­nia-based non­profit that in­vests in med­i­cal re­search, par­tic­u­larly male con­tra­cep­tion. Linda Brent is the foun­da­tion’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

“One thing that peo­ple might not think about is that it is a foun­da­tion. It’s a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that sup­ports the de­vel­op­ment of Vasal­gel. Our goal isn’t to make prof­its, it’s for wide ac­ces­si­bil­ity and af­ford­abil­ity,” said Ms. Brent.

For women, a host of prod­ucts for hor­monal and re­versible birth con­trol is avail­able. There are dozens of pills, patches, im­plants, shots and emer­gency con­tra­cep­tion op­tions.

But for men, the only long-term birth con­trol method is the va­sec­tomy, and the short-term so­lu­tion is the con­dom.

A Parse­mus sur­vey found that 5 per­cent of cou­ples prac­tice with­drawal be­fore ejac­u­la­tion, “with a 22 per­cent fail­ure rate in typ­i­cal use.” Planned Par­ent­hood rec­om­mends prac­tic­ing with­drawal in con­junc­tion with an­other birth con­trol method, like the pill or con­doms.

Va­sec­tomies are in­tended to be re­versible but are not al­ways suc­cess­ful. Other com­pli­ca­tions from the pro­ce­dure in­clude bleed­ing or in­fec­tion at the pro­ce­dure site, sperm leak­ing from the sev­ered tube or the for­ma­tion of a small lump of built-up sperm.

Be­cause of the suc­cess of the pill for women, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies sought to repli­cate that suc­cess for men, but with no suc­cess.

“The men were hav­ing side ef­fects, and there was some push­back,” Ms. Brent said. “Most men are not in­ter­ested in tak­ing some­thing that could al­ter their hor­monal bal­ance.”

Vasal­gel doesn’t con­tain any hor­mones. Its gel-like sub­stance is thick enough to block sperm but por­ous enough to al­low “wa­ter sol­u­ble mol­e­cules” to pass through, ac­cord­ing to the study.

The gel was first tested on non­hu­man pri­mates — 16 adult male rhe­sus mon­keys. They had one week of re­cov­ery fol­low­ing the in­jec­tion be­fore be­ing re­leased to an en­vi­ron­ment with fe­males present.

“Treated males have had no con­cep­tions since Vasal­gel in­jec­tions,” the study au­thors wrote in a Fe­bru­ary study pub­lished in Ba­sic and Clin­i­cal An­drol­ogy.

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