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Monkey trial raises hopes of new male contraceptive gel


USA

Monkey trial raises hopes of new male contraceptive gel

An injectable gel called Vasalgel is raising hopes that men will have another option when it comes to contraception.

The product recently completed a two-year trial on rhesus monkeys in California.

The breakthrough is significant as it could provide an alternative to surgical procedures for long-term birth control in men.

Male contraceptives have not changed in over a century, and are currently limited to condoms and withdrawal (with high pregnancy rates in typical use), or a vasectomy (which is meant to be permanent). No long-acting, reversible contraceptives are currently available for men.

Vasalgel works after being injected into the vas deferens, the tube that carries sperm from the testicles and through the penis, by blocking sperm but not other fluids from passing along it. Crucially, it does not stop men ejaculating or having an orgasm – it simply stops sperm from passing down the tube.

And unlike a vasectomy, which cuts the tubes, early trials in rabbits suggest it is likely to be reversible too after another injection to dissolve the gel. (But if it’s not then analysts suggest it may never become popular as it would be little different from a vasectomy.)

For it to become successful, the not-for-profit company promoting it, Parsemus Foundation in Berkeley, California, now needs to secure large amounts of funding and conduct extensive trials in men.

The foundation says it ultimately aims for Vasalgel to be available worldwide and at different prices so it can remain affordable in many countries.

On its website it says its goal is to “is to find low cost solutions that have been neglected by the pharmaceutical industry.”

Future trials are likely to focus on the how easily reversible Vasalgel really is.

In the monkey trial 16 adult male monkeys, 10 of them fathers, were observed to have mated with females over two breeding seasons. No female became pregnant and one male needed to have an operation on his vas deferens after the injection of the gel damaged it.

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