Beyond the Male “Pill”
From remote-control key fobs to ultrasound, male contraception goes high tech
Surgeons implant tiny plugs into the vas deferens (the central sperm pipe) that block swimmers and force the body to reabsorb them.
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.
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.
The main risk is bungled surgery. On occasion, doctors have placed the device next to, rather than inside, the vas deferens.
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.
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.
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.
One initial side effect is uncomfortable swelling that can last a couple weeks.
A doctor applies ultrasound to the testes for 10 minutes. The heat scrambles the sperm-making process for about six months.
Contraception could become a twice-yearly checkup procedure, like going to the dentist.
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.
It’s unclear how long the effects will last from patient to patient.