HEALTH

Is This Injection For Men The Future Of Contraception?

A one-off injection for men that's completely effective and completely reversible.

07/04/2017 7:44 AM AEST | Updated 07/04/2017 1:08 PM AEST
AntonioGuillem via Getty Images
Men currently don't have a lot of options when it comes to contraception.

It sounds too good to be true -- a simple, almost painless one-off injection for men that not only prevents pregnancy long-term, but is 100 percent reversible.

No daily pill-popping, no surgery, no hormones sending your partner's mood skyrocketing and then plummeting back to earth faster than you can say 'fancy a quickie before the kids get home?'

But that's what a new product -- trademarked under the name Vasalgel -- claims to do.

Until now, men have really only had two options when it comes to birth control: a condom or a vasectomy. A vasectomy ('the snip') is invasive and often irreversible, while condoms are inconvenient and, according to the study's authors, have an 18 per cent yearly pregnancy rate in typical use.

This means birth control is generally left up to the female partner, but this promising new development could change all of that.

So how does it work?

Vasalgel is a polymer gel -- a spongy, flexible substance which is injected into the vas deferens (the tiny tubes which carry sperm from the testes to their final destination).

Instead of snipping the vas deferens completely, as in a vasectomy, the gel forms a barricade which prevents the sperm from getting through. Importantly, the gel still allows fluids to get through.

In February, a study was released showing that the gel had been effective in preventing male rhesus monkeys from getting pregnant for two years. In a year long trial of rabbits, no sperm at all was found in tests of semen samples. Instead, the blocked sperm is simply embedded into the gel or reabsorbed by the body.

To reverse the procedure, the tubes were injected with a solution of sodium bicarbonate, which dissolved the gel and allowed the sperm to get through.

"We were pleased that the number of sperm and their motility after reversal were no different from baseline measures," the study's lead author Donald Waller said.

"The results of the Vasalgel reversibility study in rabbits indicate the implant could be removed resulting in a quick return of sperm flow."

Now, the not-for-profit Parsemus Foundation behind the new contraceptive is preparing for human trials. In 2016, developers said that the contraceptive could be on the market as early as next year, although that's likely to be an optimistic time frame.

While more work may need to be done to ensure Vasalgel is fully flushed out -- as residual gel could potentially impact on future sperm characteristics -- this could be good news for men and women alike looking for more options when it comes to contraception.


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