Simple, Reversible, Inexpensive Male Contraception Tested
Is there a simple, inexpensive, reversible male contraceptive coming to a clinic near you soon? A quick visit to a doctor´s office may soon be all that is needed for males to do their part for contraception.
The journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology details a study using commercially available therapeutic ultrasound equipment to reduce sperm counts of male rats to levels which would result in infertility in humans.
A team led by the University of North Carolina´s Dr. James Tsuruta found that by rotating high frequency (3MHz) ultrasound around the testes using two sessions consisting of 15 minutes ultrasound two days apart, they were able to cause uniform depletion of germ cells throughout the testes.
With saline used to provide conduction between the ultrasound transducer and skin and the testes warmed to 99º Fahrenheit, a Sperm Count Index of zero (3 million motile sperm per cauda epididymis) was achieved.
Tsuruta explains, “Our non-invasive ultrasound treatment reduced sperm reserves in rats far below levels normally seen in fertile men. Further studies are required to determine how long the contraceptive effect lasts and if it is safe to use multiple times. The perfect male contraceptive would be cheap, reliable, reversible, long-acting and have few side effects.”
A first attempt to use ultrasound as a male contraceptive was reported 40 years ago, reports Daily Mail UK´s Clair Bates, Several prostate cancer patients who were due to have their testicles removed underwent the treatment, which resulted in a “dramatic loss of germ cells”.
“These men reported that the procedure was pain-free, only creating a gentle feeling of warmth,” said the authors of the new study.
The idea however was not pursued at the time and the equipment used is now outdated and unavailable. The new research was intended as a starting point to see if modern ultrasound devices used for physical therapy can be used as a male contraceptive.
Dr. Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield, tells BBC News Health, “It´s a nice idea, but a lot more work is needed.”
He said that it was likely that there would be recovery of sperm production, but the “sperm might be damaged and any baby might be damaged”, when sperm production resumed. “The last thing we want is a lingering damage to sperm,” he said.
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