By Zoe Bradbury
Previously, birth control has been largely left up to the responsibility of women, and from the pill, intrauterine device (IUD), and female condoms, there’s no shortage of different options.
But now, researchers from China’s Nanchang University have developed a form of male birth control, and it was inspired by cocktails.
Researchers say they took inspiration from colourful cocktails such as the Galaxy, which bartenders create by sequentially pouring different liquids into a glass, making a multi-layered cocktail.
When stirred or heated, these layers would combine to create a uniform liquid.
It’s this that inspired by Xiaolei Wang and his colleagues from Nanchang University in China to begin the pilot study into a new form of male contraception.
This is not a temporary vasectomy, and it’s not a male birth control pill. It’s also more effective than a condom.
Recently published in the ASC Journal by the American Chemical Society, the study was conducted in rats.
Scientists injected four layers of material, including two different chemicals and gold nanoparticles, into the duct (called the Vans Deferens), in the male reproductive system, where sperm travels from the testicle to the urethra.
Injected sequentially, much like the making of the multi-layered cocktail, they found that this process was effective in killing sperm and blocking the duct.
For a two-month period, this then stopped rats impregnating females.
Researchers then found that when heat was applied via a near infrared light that was shone on the rats for a few minutes, the injected layers would break down and mix together, “unplugging the pipeline,” said Wang.
This is the key fact that researches say makes this a “medium-term, reversible male contraceptive,” compared to the only other current options of a vasectomy, which is permanent, and condoms, which can often be ineffective.
After this occurred, the rats then returned to being fertile, and were able to successfully impregnate the female.
While the method still needs to undergo further testing, researchers say it is a promising start into the foray of a male contraception. The process will still need to be conducted on further animals, before beginning human testing in a clinical trial.
If successful, the contraception will be administrated by an injection, and the male users will be able to control the contraceptive period, which could be between two and 20 weeks, based on the levels of dosage, Wang said.
The benefit of this medium-term male contraception, which hasn’t been seen before, is that users will be able to easily reverse the birth control when it is no longer needed, and fertility will be restored.
The researchers believe that as societal expectations change, more and more males will be willing, and wanting, to “shoulder the burden or pregnancy, both for fairness and risk aversion” for their female partners, says Wang.
Previous attempts at a male birth control have been limited and unpopular, because most attempts to make men infertile by lowering their sperm count also blocks testosterone, which is crucial to men’s health and libidio levels.
In 2016 a worldwide male contraceptive study involving 320 men, who were administrated shots of both testosterone and progesterone for eight weeks, was shut down early by two independent safety reviews.
This came after a high rate of adverse side effects, including acne (45 percent), increased libidio (38 per cent), “emotional disorder” (16.9 per cent), injection site pain (23.1 per cent) and muscle pain (16.3 per cent).
After several men dropped out of the study as a result, it was ruled that “the risks to the study participants outweighed the potential benefits to the study participants.”
While an effective, safe male birth control has yet to be developed, the researchers from the cocktail-inspired study are hopeful their alternative will be successful.
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