Are Men Ready for a Contraception Injection?

Contraception for men is a game of extremes. On one end of the spectrum we have condoms, and on the other is the vasectomy. And in between those two options there's... pretty much nothing. You can either go with a simple tool that has a reasonable chance of failing, or permanent shutdown.

That may change in a few years if a new technique known as reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance, or RISUG, is eventually approved by the FDA.

The procedure involves injecting a clear gel into the vas deferens, the vessel through which sperm is transported to its launch site before leaving the body.  The gel coats the interior of the vessel with a plastic compound that has a net positive charge. When sperm enter the vessel, they are neutralized by the charge and die before they can reach the exit.

The gel will be marketed in the U.S. under the name Vasalgel, though, as I mentioned, it has a series of hurdles to overcome first.  Even in India where the gel was invented it's still in clinical trials.

The website HowStuffWorks has a fascinating article about RISUG that covers its genesis as a method to purify drinking water.  Here's a snippet:

 In the 1970s, he [Sujoy Guha, inventor of the procedure] began investigating cost-effective techniques to purify rural water systems. He discovered that if he coated pipes with a common polymer called styrene maleic anhydride, he could kill bacteria lurking in the water supply. The process took advantage of an electric charge differential existing between the polymer, which was positively charged, and the bacteria cells, which carried a net negative charge. As microbes traveled through the polymer-lined pipes and encountered the strong positive charge, the attractive forces pulled them apart.

When the Indian government began worrying about its rapidly growing population, Guha wondered if the same polymer could work for male contraception. After all, the vas deferens resembled a water pipe, and sperm traveling through the narrow tubes were analogous to bacteria. Guha ran some tests and found that the procedure worked perfectly...

Read the whole piece at HowStuffWorks.

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Posted on August 27, 2012 .