Birth control for men may be on the horizon due to a study being conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The study, reported by Bloomberg in November, involves 420 couples and will use a gel treatment that will be applied to the back and shoulders of a male. Here, two types of hormones are used to stop the production of sperm while also maximizing the energy and libido of testosterone.
The gel, which combines progestin and testosterone, will allow researchers to test how successful it is at providing protection against pregnancies. Up until this point, men have only had the option of using a condom, getting a vasectomy, or using "coitus interruptus" method as birth control, CNN reports.
The gel would allow men to be more in control of managing pregnancy and is decidedly more effective as it prevents testosterone from leaving the body at a slower rate compared to a pill form, Bloomberg reported. The progestin in the gel is designed to block testosterone production naturally when sperm is made, effectively replacing the hormone that found in the blood.
"You are cutting it off at the source, but replacing it everywhere else at a level that keeps everything else functioning normally," Diana Blithe, chief of the contraceptive development program at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, told Bloomberg.
"This gel would be the first user-controlled method of contraception for men since the introduction of the condom," Blithe added. "We hope it will be an acceptable form of contraception that couples will want to use."
Early testing of the study has indicated that the gel does reduce sperm production, which does return after the gel stops, causing no serious side effects. Development of the male birth control gel occurred with NIH in conjunction with the reproductive nonprofit Population Council.
Blithe told Bloomberg that a commercial partner would be secured to help sell the birth control gel for men if it found to be successful after testing.
Beyond the gel, a pill form of birth control for men is also being studied with results being revealed by the Endocrine Society. The hormone birth control pill was developed to reduce testosterone and other hormone levels that produce sperm without serious side effects, CNN reported in March.
"Our goal -- and everyone's goal in this field -- is to develop a method for men that has minimal side effects, and the holy grail would be to develop something that also has a health benefit for men," Dr. Stephanie Page, endocrinologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine and a lead author of the study, told CNN.
The study, which had 83 male participants, found that after taking the birth control pill for 28 days, testosterone levels dropped in the blood to castrate levels in the three different doses tested – 100, 200, and 4000 milligrams, according to CNN.
Because the sample size is relatively small, more research is necessary to determine the possible side effects of the pill.
This article was first published in IBTimes US. Permission required for reproduction.