Polymers have been a key source for a lot of cool new inventions, such as a tiny generator and a heart-disease detecting biosensor, but now, thanks to some Indian scientists, polymers seem to be moving into a completely new, perhaps in a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction direction as a basic ingredient for… (wait for it)… male contraception.
The scientists claim that the medical procedure involving polymers is 100% effective, relatively uninvasive, and completely reversible. The procedure, undergoing advanced clinical trials, is called “Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance,” or RISUG, reports Dave Smith of the International Business Times.
The procedure is better than a vasectomy in a couple of ways. In a vasectomy, a small incision is made in the scrotum, and a surgeon cuts one or both of the vasa deferentia, the severing of which prevents sperm from entering the seminal stream. In the new procedure, developed by Professor Sujoy K. Guha of the Indian Institute of Technology, a doctor would inject a polymer gel called “Vasalgel” directly into the vas deferens instead of cutting it. The gel coats the wall of the tube and kills sperm as they wiggle by.
Another advantage is that the new procedure reduces the time in which a man becomes infertile. With a vasectomy, it can take up to three months to clear sperm out of the system. RISUG, on the other hand, is effective almost immediately, with the best results coming after 72 hours.
Moreover, a single treatment can last for 10 years or more. Some patients in India have gone as long as 15 years.
Should a man want to conceive again, the original procedure can be nullified by simply flushing out Vasalgel with an injection of dimethyl sulfoxide, a compound used in the medical treatment of many conditions and that is bioacceptable, the researchers say. To reverse a vasectomy, the medical operation is much more involved, with surgeons required to reconnect the severed vas deferens.
Trials in India involving monkeys and humans have been ongoing for 25 years. The researchers claim that the procedure is safe and effective. Studies have shown that sperm returns to safe and normal conditions for conception after the Vasalgel has been flushed from the body.
For Vasalgel to be approved outside of India, however, researchers must start clinical trials in those countries. Researchers plan to being formal toxicological studies in the United States in 2012, with the hope to have the procedure available in 2015.
Source: “New Male Birth Control Procedure is 100 Percent Effective, Completely Reversible,” International Business Times, 5/7/12
Image by Unknown, used under Fair Use: Reporting.
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.