Condom free birth control might be closer than we think. In a recent study, the condom-free male contraceptive just passed its toughest test yet and has been successful for more than a year. The experiment was performed on 16 male Rhesus monkeys.
This male contraceptive injection is called Vasagel. And this blocks sperm from leaving the body – had a 100% success rate when tested in monkeys. Oh, and it had absolutely no side effects.
Developing male contraceptive options have hardly changed in more than a century. By 2020 the goal is more ambitious.
Contraceptives For Men On The Way
Vasalgel, is designed to be a reversible and a less invasive form of vasectomy. In the latest study it was 100% effective at preventing conception.
A blob of the gel is injected into the sperm-carrying tube, known as the vas deferens, and acts as a long-lasting barrier.
In the study, published in the Journal Basic and Clinical Andrology, 16 male rhesus monkeys were given injections of the gel and then returned to their group, which included between three and nine breeding females.
In all tests, no pregnancies were reported making the tests 100% successful.
“Similar to earlier animal trials, there was no evidence of complications, or the monkeys’ immune system reacting badly to the Vasalgel,” said Parsemus Foundation. This is the non-profit company behind the contraceptive.
The scientists have also previously shown that the Vasalgel blocked 12 rabbits from getting females pregnant without any abnormal responses throughout a year-long trial.
The Parsemus Foundation said last year that it hopes Vasalgel could be on the market as early as 2018, with an international pricing structure to ensure affordability for all men.
“Contraceptive development is a hugely expensive project,” Parsemus executive director, Elaine Lissner, said last year. “But this is not just another early-stage lead; we’re so close on this one. It’s time to finish the job we’ve started.”
How Vasalgel Male Contraceptive Works
Vasalgel is a long-acting, non-hormonal male contraceptive designed to be a reversible and a less invasive form of vasectomy.
Unlike vasectomy, in which the tube is snapped and the two ends cauterized, the Vasalgel procedure should be reversible, potentially making it an attractive option for a wider range of men.
The Vasalgel does not alter the production of sperms and hormonal level in the male body leaving no side-effects. As with a vasectomy, sperm continues to be produced in the testes, but rather than being ejaculated, it dissolves and is naturally absorbed by the body.
Lead scientist Dr. Catherine VandeVoort, from California National Primate Research Centre, said: “Our research shows that Vasalgel placement into the vas deferens produces reliable contraception in mature male rhesus monkeys as shown by the lack of pregnancies in reproductively viable females with which the males were housed.”
‘Importantly, we show that the method of Vasalgel placement is safe and produced fewer complications than those which usually occur with a vasectomy.’
‘Vasalgel shows real promise as an alternative to vasectomy because research in rabbits has previously shown the product to be reversible.’
We are excited by the early results of the trials: “Men’s options for contraception have not changed much in decades. There’s vasectomy, which is poorly reversible, and condoms. If they knew they could get a reliable contraceptive that could also be reversed I think it would be appealing to them.”
He continues ‘Although it is possible to reverse a vasectomy, it is a technically challenging procedure and patients often have very low rates of fertility following reversal.’
What makes these results especially compelling is their comparison to a tradition pill, which has a typical success rate of 99 % in humans. Vasalgel has a 100% success rate in the most recent trial on Rhesus monkeys.
“One of the great things about the monkey model is that the male reproductive tract is very similar to humans and they have even more sperm than humans do,” said VandeVoort. Interestingly, “Chances are, it’s going to be effective in humans.”
“They wouldn’t have to worry about it on a day-to-day basis,” said VandeVoort. “This would be more akin to an IUD [the coil] in women.”
Professor Adam Balen, chairman of the British Fertility Society, said: ‘If free of side effects then this novel approach has the potential for great promise as a male contraceptive. It is essential to know that the reversibility remains, irrespective of the duration of use.’
“While vasectomy is a quick and relatively simple procedure in humans, in monkeys there can be additional complications, as it is inherently more complex,” said Angela Colagross-Schouten, the lead veterinarian on the project.
“We were impressed that this alternative worked in every single monkey, even though this was our first time trying it.”
Opinion 2020 For Male Contraceptive
Professor Allan Pacey of the University of Sheffield opinioned that in 2020 a reliable male contraceptive alternative could be a widespread interest. “The idea of trying to replace the traditional method of vasectomy by inserting a gel into the tube which carries sperm from the testicles to the penis at ejaculation is not a new one.”
He continues: “However, we haven’t seen much progress in developing the idea in recent years, so this study is a useful step in the right direction.”
There’s still a long way to go before we can get too excited about the potential of Vasalgel. At least three rounds of human clinical trials are planned before the drug is considered for regulatory approval.
But it’s very rare for a male contraceptive to make it this far in the first place, so we’ll be watching the results closely.
It is not yet clear how long it will be, or if indeed the procedure will get to the point of public availability. However, clinical trials on humans seem set to take place sooner rather than later.