Researchers were able to test Vasalgel in monkeys, a viscous contraceptive substance that is injected into the male subjects’ sperm tubes and acts as a barrier to prevent the “swimmers” from leaking out. According to the study who monitored the subjects for two years after the procedure, Vasalgel works effectively and without side-effects, at least in monkeys. Details of the experiments have been published in the journal Basic and Clinical Andrology on Tuesday, February 7th.
Scientists hope they could begin testing the formula in human subjects, as well, in several years’ time. However, two big “ifs” stand between the researchers and marketing the gel as an effective, side-effects free contraceptive measure: successful human trials and proper funding for their experiments. If deemed a success, the new contraceptive measure would be the latest to hit the markets in several decades.
Currently, men can have access to only two contraceptive measures: either wear a condom, or subject themselves to a sterilizing procedure, otherwise known as vasectomy. The latter implies cutting off or sealing the tubes that carry the sperm to the penis from the testicles. However, once performed, men can no longer have children and the procedure is very difficult, if not impossible at all, to reverse.
On the other hand, Vasalgel works in similar ways to a vasectomy, minus the side effect of not being able to procreate. It works by injecting a gel plug into the sperm canals, completely blocking off sperm. However, the plug can later be removed with another injection. Early tests in rabbits proved that the procedure of administering the plug and later dissolve it worked perfectly in rabbits. However, the operation has not yet been tested in monkeys or humans.
The scientists say the concept is nothing new. At the moment, another contraceptive gel, dubbed RISUG, which stands for Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance is being tested in India and works in a similar way to Vasalgel. However, as opposed to RISUG, Vasalgel lets other fluids, except sperm, through, according to the manufacturer. Both contraceptive gels are given as an injection, under anesthetic, and guarantee long-acting contraception.
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