Vasalgel acts as a physical barrier once injected into the tubes that sperm would swim down to the penis. The company behind it says a two-year trial, published in Basic and Clinical Andrology, shows the gel works and is safe – at least in primates.
It hopes to have enough evidence to begin tests in men within a few years. If those get funding and go well – two big “ifs” – it will seek regulatory approval to make the gel more widely available to men. It would be the first new type of male contraceptive to hit the market in many decades.
At the moment, men have two main options of contraceptive – wear a condom to catch the sperm, or have a sterilising operation (vasectomy) to cut or seal the two tubes that carry sperm to the penis from where they are made in the testicles. Vasalgel has the same end effect as vasectomy, but researchers hope it should be easier to reverse if a man later decides he wants to have children. In theory, another injection should dissolve the gel plug. That worked in early tests in rabbits, but the researchers have yet to prove the same in monkeys and man.