Good news for all those dudes who have had to brave the impromptu late-night walk to the petrol station: researchers are close to creating a condom-free alternative for males!
Known as Vasalgel, it “works by blocking the tube that the sperm travels down – the vas deferens – with a flexible, spongy, hydrogel material”. It requires only one injection to the vas to be effective, rather than regular treatments or medications.
The contraceptive is designed to be both effective and reversible. Now, while they may sound like painfully obvious aims for a contraceptive, it isn’t until you consider the downsides of other contraceptive methods that it becomes clear just how important the project is.
For a start, condoms – though readily available in most places – aren’t as reliable as you might like to think. According to Live Science, “With perfect use, condoms prevent pregnancy with 98 percent success, according to the World Health Organization. Typically, however, the rate of unintended pregnancy with condoms is around 15 percent.”
The other option available to men seeking contraception is the vasectomy, wherein the tube that carries sperm cells from the testes, the vas deferens or vas, is severed, preventing the sperm cells from doing what they do best.
Despite being effective and safe, the two main issues with the vasectomy are the invasiveness of a surgical procedure and also the fact that it’s permanent – not ideal for men who decide to step on the ol’ reproduction carousel at a later date.
The team behind Vasalgel, the Parsemus Foundation believe their product could be on the market within the next couple of years, based on a successful trial on rhesus monkeys, which were used because of their similarities to humans.
In the trial, 16 Rhesus males were injected with Vasalgel before being “introduced to outdoor, group housing” containing fertile females and being allowed to get freaky as much or as little as they felt like.
Seven of the 16 monkeys were housed in such a way for two years, which you can probably imagine is time enough for plenty of monkeying around, and a grand total of zero pregnancies were reported.
There are of course some mitigating factors here; it was a small study, conducted without a control group, so without a lot of further research it would be a stretch to suggest the Vasalgel is an effective monkey contraception. There is also the matter of difficulties in replicating the results of animal tests in human subjects.
Even taking that into account however, the Parsemus Foundation is preparing to move on to full clinical trials in order to test the effectiveness of the procedure.
All of which, if you read between the lines, means that at some point quite soon, a group of people are going to be instructed to go all at it in the name of science – and, quite possibly, get one of the most awkward ‘How did you and mum meet?’ stories ever in return.