Beyond the Male "Pill"

From remote-control key fobs to ultrasound, male contraception goes high tech

Remote Control

How it works
A doctor inserts a thin piece of silicon embedded with circuits into the vas deferens. The circuits convert radio signals from the fob to acoustic waves, which cause the material to expand and block sperm.
Advantages
A second click of the fob contracts the material to unblock the sperm. Removing the device would require just a quick visit to the doctor's office.
Status
Australian scientists have recently completed the design of the circuits. Tests in animals could begin in two years.
Uh-oh factor
Could listening to the radio wreck your fertility? Not quite. Using ultrahigh radio frequencies and signal coding eliminates the chance of accidental activation.
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Plugs

How it works
Surgeons implant tiny plugs into the vas deferens (the central sperm pipe) that block swimmers and force the body to reabsorb them.
Advantages
Proven materialsa€"the plugs are made of the same silicone as artificial joints. The procedure would work like a vasectomy but would be easier to reverse.
Status
In March, the Shepherd Medical Company finalized results from an 82-man trial, evaluating the plug's efficacy and safety. A broader test of hundreds of men is next.
Uh-oh factor
The main risk is bungled surgery. On occasion, doctors have placed the device next to, rather than inside, the vas deferens.
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Drano

How it works
During a 15-minute procedure, a doctor injects a gel into the vas deferens that alters the pH of sperm-cell membranes and dissolves them on their way out.
Advantages
Flushing the gel out with a baking-soda solution reverses the process. Initial studies suggest that the gel can otherwise last more than 10 years.
Status
The Indian government is funding a long-term, 500-man study of the gel's efficacy and safety this year. Stateside, researchers plan to begin safety studies in rabbits.
Uh-oh factor
One initial side effect is uncomfortable swelling that can last a couple weeks.
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Ultrasound

How it works
A doctor applies ultrasound to the testes for 10 minutes. The heat scrambles the sperm-making process for about six months.
Advantages
Contraception could become a twice-yearly checkup procedure, like going to the dentist.
Status
A nine-month trial on rats, conducted by U.S. scientists, began in April. New studies will focus on whether the procedure is reversible and safe.
Uh-oh factor
It's unclear how long the effects will last from patient to patient.
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