Vasalgel, the male birth control that’s due out in 2018, will begin studies in human males later this year, and expand its studies next year. But how does Vasalgel work? Good question. It’s a gel that’s injected into a guy’s vas deferens, otherwise known as the tube the sperm swim through to get to the egg. As I mentioned in this piece, it’s like football — the gel is the defense to the aggressive sperm trying to score. (Pun intended.) Seminal fluids will still be released, but no sperm. (No sperm!) The sperm are too big to get through the gel and, instead, they’re reabsorbed into the body. What will science think of next?!
The Parsemus Foundation is behind developing Vasalgel and hopes to get it out to the world.
“Vasalgel has the potential to revolutionize birth control,” Elaine Lissner, founder and executive director of Parsemus Foundation, tells Bustle. “The burden of contraception falls disproportionately on women, partly because women have several long-acting contraceptive options, though they have drawbacks including unpleasant side effects, inconvenience, and expense. Meanwhile many men want control over their reproductive future — and they’re willing to share responsibility for contraception more evenly with women, especially if they can preserve their ability to produce children in the future.”
Sounds like a win-win for everyone, right?
1. No One Has To Deal With Hormones From Other Types Of Contraception
This is celebration enough to be pro-Vasalgel, or least open to it. Oral contraceptives with hormones are the worst , I think, and any birth control methods without causing mood swings and excessive crying are a plus in my book — and others’. “Vasalgel takes a different approach, stopping sperm in the tube they swim through, rather than hitting the whole body with hormones,” Lissner says.
2. It May Last Over A Year
Yep, Vasalgel could last around a year, or more, so no need for other birth control methods during that time! What a relief! However, testing the timeline on humans still needs to be done, and will begin this year in small studies, and in larger ones in 2017. But, the good news is, for 12 months, Vasalgel was studied in rabbits, and the studies revealed no sperm (at least, not from the second semen sample onwards). The gel also worked for baboons for just over a year. “We don’t know yet how many years the effect will last for Vasalgel; upcoming research will help produce those answers,” the Parsemus Foundation said on their website.
3. It’ll Give Guys Another Birth Control Option That’s In Their Court
“I think it is very interesting and will open the sexuality discussion of responsibility for contraception,” Dr. Michael Krychman, MD, OBGYN, Sexual Medicine Gynecologist and the executive director of the Southern California Center for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine, tells Bustle. “I will certainly entertain the discussion with both my male and female patients with this novel male contraceptive.” Yep, there’s nothing like having lots of different birth control options aside from the most renowned ones—including The Pill, condoms, and IUDs.
“Women have multiple options (each with its own drawbacks), but right now there’s nothing out there both reversible and highly reliable for men,” Lissner says. “Condoms are important in new relationships, but they’re often used inconsistently and are unpopular among long-term couples. Clearly, we need an effective, long-acting, reversible option for men. Many men are excited about Vasalgel because it could be that option.” Did someone say reversible?!
4. It May Be Reversible — aka You Can Still Have Kids Someday
At the moment, whether or not Vasalgel is reversible is a big “maybe,” as human studies need to be completed before anyone can say for sure. But, in the year-long study done on rabbits, when the Vasalgel was removed — via flushing it out with an injection of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) solution — the sperm went back to being their old selves once the Vasalgel was removed. So, for now, that means lots more bunnies out there once again!
5. It Won’t Be Out Until 2018
If the Vasalgel human studies go well in 2016 and 2017, the Parsemus Foundation hopes that Vasagel could be readily available in 2018. “About half the pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, but we don't see Big Pharma putting resources into providing truly revolutionary options — it’s mostly ‘me too’ repackaging of hormones,” Lissner says. “We're developing Vasalgel as a social venture, with the goal of making it available and affordable to as many couples as possible worldwide, and we’re optimistic we can do it with the public’s continued support.”
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Images: Courtsey of Vasalgel; Giphy (2-7)