A contraceptive gel has provided long-term and reliable contraception in male rhesus monkeys, according to research published in the open access journal Basic and Clinical Andrology. The product, called Vasalgel™, which was trialled in rabbits in 2016, has the potential to be a reversible alternative to vasectomy.
Vasalgel™ is a non-pharmaceutical agent that forms a non-toxic hydrogel when injected into the vas deferens (the duct which conveys sperm from the testicle to the urethra). The gel fills the internal cavity of the vas deferens, forming a mechanical barrier to the movement of sperm. This method of contraception could one day be a viable alternative to a vasectomy and, in this study, was able to prevent any conceptions occurring in a test group of 16 rhesus monkeys.
Dr Catherine VandeVoort, lead author from the California National Primate Research Centre, said: “Our research shows that Vasalgel™ placement into the vas deferens produces reliable contraception in mature male rhesus monkeys as shown by the lack of pregnancies in reproductively viable females with which the males were housed. Importantly, we show that the method of Vasalgel™ placement is safe and produced fewer complications than usually occur with a vasectomy.”
Dr VandeVoort added: “Vasalgel™ shows real promise as an alternative to vasectomy because research in rabbits has previously shown the product to be reversible. Although it is possible to reverse a vasectomy, it is a technically challenging procedure and patients often have very low rates of fertility following reversal.”
The researchers selected 16 adult male monkeys for surgery that involved injection of Vasalgel™ into the vas deferens. The monkeys were then monitored closely for 7 days for healthy recovery before being introduced back into their normal group housing. This consisted of large outdoor enclosures containing between 10-30 monkeys that included male and female infants, juveniles and adults. Each group had between one and three males that had been administered Vasalgel™. The males were housed with their groups for at least one breeding season (approximately six months) and the authors report that no conceptions occurred. The expected pregnancy rate for sexually mature females in similar housing is approximately 80% per breeding season, according to the researchers.
One monkey out of the 16 that received Vasalgel™ showed signs of sperm granuloma (a hard build-up of sperm in the vas deferens) as a result of the injection. This is a common complication following a vasectomy, occurring in around 60% of cases in humans, according to the researchers. Discomfort or serious side effects caused by sperm granuloma are rare following a vasectomy. The researchers also state that the typical rate of sperm granuloma in male rhesus monkeys that have undergone vasectomy is around 15%.
The researchers say that future research should investigate the reversibility of Vasalgel™ placement in rhesus monkeys so that it can move forward as a potential alternative option to vasectomy for human males.
1. Image of rhesus monkeys at the California National Primate Research Centre is availble here: https://goo.gl/IF246q
Please credit ‘California National Primate Research Centre’.
2. Research article:
The contraceptive efficacy of intravas injection of Vasalgel™ for adult male rhesus monkeys
Catherine VandeVoort et al.
Basic and Clinical Andrology 2017
After the embargo lifts, the article will be available at the journal website here: https://bacandrology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12610-017-0048-9
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3. Basic and Clinical Andrology is an open access journal within the domain of andrology, covering all aspects of male reproductive and sexual health in humans and animal models. The journal aims to bring to light the various clinical advancements and research developments in andrology from the international community.
4. BioMed Central is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Nature, a major new force in scientific, scholarly, professional and educational publishing, created in May 2015 through the combination of Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave Macmillan, Macmillan Education and Springer Science+Business Media. www.biomedcentral.com