A new method of birth control known as Vasalgel has completed its first trial on monkeys, increasing expectations of a future application in humans with reversible effects.

Vasalgel is an injected contraceptive that blocks the tubes through which sperm gets combined with semen. The method is safer than vasectomy, with the added benefit that it will probably end up being reversible.

Image credit: Thevibeng.com
Image credit: Thevibeng.com

The study was funded by the Parsemus Foundation, the non-profit organization behind the procedure. Researchers injected sixteen male rhesus macaque monkeys with the gel, and all of them ended up unable of fertilizing a female.

Not a single female ended up pregnant, even if the groups were kept together for just over six months, which means that the monkeys saw at least one breeding season.

Basically, a reversible vasectomy

The main difference between Vasalgel and vasectomies is that the latter crushes, or ties off, the vas deferens, causing almost irreparable damage. The plugs of Vasalgel can be dissolved by injecting water and baking soda, restoring the male’s ability to reproduce.

Image credit: Male Contraception Information Project
Image credit: Male Contraception Information Project

The procedure has already been tested in male rabbits, including the reversibility factor. All that’s left is ensuring that the procedure can be reversed on primates to begin trials in humans then. The Parsemus Foundation expects that by the end of the year they will start recruiting men for a clinical trial.

The surgery is similar to the procedure used by doctors when they perform a vasectomy, and it will be tried as such before testing reversibility in humans. Only if Vasalgel is reversible, it will be an alternative to vasectomy, mainly because vasectomy can now be completed in even less than 10 minutes, according to urologist Dr. Landon Trost from Mayo Clinic, as he stated to US News.

How Vasalgel weighs against other methods of birth control

When it comes to birth control, Planned Parenthood compares the most widely used methods. It is sufficient to say that the most efficient and cheapest of all is abstinence. If used continuously, “abstinence is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. It also prevents STDs,” according to the organization.

The most common and cost-effective contraceptive method that does not force the couple to abstain from sex would be condoms. If used correctly, they can protect the couple from contracting an STD from one another while also preventing pregnancy. They are supposed to be used every time the person has sex. Planned Parenthood claims that condoms should be used “from start to finish,” making sure the condom is rolled on the penis correctly before there’s contact with the other person’s skin.

Now, vasectomy is a more effective albeit permanent method of birth control, having a 100 percent rate of effectiveness, although the patient has to wait until all of the remaining sperm is used up, a process that takes about three months to complete. It is highly infrequent that the tubes can grow back and cause a pregnancy, something that has been noted to occur in only 1 out of 1,000 cases. The main cons of vasectomy are that it cannot be reversed in most cases and that it does not protect the patient against STIs, but it can be an ideal procedure for a man who has decided not to have more children.

Vasectomy is very safe in theory, although it includes the risks that come with any medical procedure. Because vasectomy is for life, it is convenient and reliable, allowing a couple to enjoy having sex without worrying about getting pregnant. The process does not alter hormonal levels, and it does not have anything to do with having an erection or good orgasms. Another plus is that a vasectomy usually costs not more than $1,000, while sterilization for women is significantly more expensive.

Now, Vasalgel is based on RISUG, a polymer contraceptive developed in India that has been used for 15 years. The Parsemus Foundation started to work in 2010 for a polymer contraceptive similar to RISUG and ended up with Vasalgel. Tests in rabbits were successful; subjects that were injected with the polymer displayed no sperm from their second semen sample onwards, and those that had the procedure reversed quickly were able to have their regular sperm flow.

Vasalgel. Image credit: Medical Daily
Vasalgel. Image credit: Medical Daily

Reportedly, Vasalgel is developed as a “social venture,” where the Parsemus Foundation is making just enough profit to keep itself afloat and pay back its contributors. The foundation has launched several fundraising campaigns to help support the studies required for getting Vasalgel to the medical market.

To support the development of Vasalgel to help get it to the market donors can go to this page.

A quick frequently asked questions sheet on Vasalgel, and its surgical procedure is provided by the Parsemus Foundation right here.

Source: Parsemus Foundation