A new male contraceptive is considered to be a “game-changer” and the male equivalent of “The Pill”.
The method, called Vasalgel, is as effective as a vasectomy, but will be entirely reversible and has little or no side-effects, is expected to become available within the next two years.
“This is the ‘holy grail’ of male contraception. Men [could] finally have a safe, reliable and reversible form of contraception available to them. It will also give couples a lot of flexibility,” says Dr Amir Zarrabi, a specialist in male fertility and microsurgery at the Division of Urology at Stellenbosch University.
Developed by the Parsemus Foundation in the USA, Vasalgel is already being tested in humans, but reversal has only been attempted in animal studies where it showed rapid restoration of sperm flow.
How does it work?
A small needle is used to inject Vasalgel substance into the vas deferens – the tube that transports sperm from the testicle to the “outside”.
“The Vasalgel forms a partial blockage in this tube and hinders the passage of sperm cells,” explains Zarrabi.
“It also damages the sperm cells to such an extent that they are not able to perform their function any longer.”
When a patient wants the procedure reversed, a thin needle is once again passed into the vas deferens and an alkaline solution (like sodium bicarbonate) is injected into the tube.
“This alkaline solution will dissolve the Vasalgel substance and everything is flushed out of the tube so that sperm can once again make their way through the tubes unhindered in order to perform their normal function.”
Almost no side-effects
Although a vasectomy is a small procedure, it does carry some risks, like bleeding or infection, and there is also a small chance that a man might experience post-vasectomy pain due to pressure build-up in the testicles.
“Vasalgel does not require any surgery does not carry any of these risks,” explains Zarrabi. “There may be minor risks related to the process, but because it is truly a minimally invasive procedure, the risks and complications should be much less than with a conventional vasectomy procedure. We are still waiting for the results from large scale human trials with Vasalgel but all indications are that the risk of side effects should be significantly reduced.”
'The Pill' for men
Previous efforts to develop a male contraceptive focused on hormonal manipulation, which is how the contraceptive “pill” for women works.
“Researchers tried to tweak the method by adding other hormones, but at the end of the day it still had too many side effects and wasn’t effective enough.”
Vasagel does not intervene on a hormonal level, thus eliminating side-effects. According to experts it has the potential to become just as popular as “the pill” and in that regard become the “male pill”.