The De-Sperminator


| August 29, 2003


Return to the days of free love with a new contraceptive that could revolutionize the act of carnal embrace. There is only one surprise...it's for men. Sujoy Guha, a professor of biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, believes he may have found a sort of miracle contraceptive, reports Audrey Schulman in Grist Magazine. Guba has been working on his invention, called Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance (RISUG), for the last 25 years. A single injection into the vas -- the place where sperm leaves the testicles -- can be effective against causing pregnancy for up to ten years.

Whoa, there! 'Men don't like doctors to have anything to do with their testicles,' said Don Waller, a contraceptives expert and professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Regardless, it looks like men just might have to deal with it because this technology is light years ahead of anything else on the market. Plus, the way it works is pretty cool. The injection coats the vas with a gel that has a negative and positive electrical charge. As sperm cells, which also have electrical charges, pass by the gel, the opposite charge ruptures the cells' membranes. RISUG does not affect tissues in the vas because those tissues have no charge. Guha enumerates six advantages of his invention:

  • Neither sexual partner has to interrupt the throes of passion to use it.
  • The process, once it is refined and approved, will be completely non-surgical. Whew, say a lot of men.
  • It's long-lasting.
  • After testing RISUG on more than 250 volunteers, neither Guha nor other researchers in the field have found side effects more worrisome than a slight scrotal swelling in some men immediately following the injection. This swelling goes away after a few weeks. Compare that to the pill, which can cause health problems ranging from severe migraines to blood clots.
  • It works. Of all the men who've had the RISUG injection (and 15 of the 250 had it more than 10 years ago), there has been only one unplanned pregnancy among their partners -- and in that instance, the injection wasn't administered properly.
  • Best of all, the contraceptive appears to be reversible with another injection. To date, reversing the procedure has been tried only on non-human primates, but among them, it's been reversed successfully multiple times.

Consider the other options. This contraceptive would mean fewer women worrying about the side-effects of the pill and often-dangerous IUDs. No need to worry about broken condoms or ineffective diaphragms.

And it's cheap. American pharmaceutical companies have spent massive amounts trying to bring the pill for men to the market, something men would have to buy again and again and again. In the United States, a decade of female pills costs about $3,600. Indian Drugs & Pharmaceuticals Ltd. is planning to market RISUG at roughly $22, making it affordable for many of the poorest in the world. Providing the developing world with a cheap form of contraception would mean fewer women dying in childbirth, fewer families poor because they have so many children, and fewer women dying from botched abortions.
-- Joel Stonington

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