Ultrasound could be used as a male contraceptive in the future, scientists claim
By Mike Swain
Ultrasound could be used as a male contraceptive in the future, scientists claim. They have found that 15 minutes of ultrasound on rats reduced their sperm count to levels that would mean infertility in men. Experiments showed the most effective method was two lots of 15 minute treatment two days apart using commercially available modern But the researchers say they do not yet know how long the ultrasound would work nor whether it is safe to be repeated.
Ultrasounds potential as a male contraceptive was first reported nearly 40 years ago. However the equipment used is now outdated and no longer available. Researchers from the Department of Pediatrics at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine used these old experiments as a starting point to see if modern ultrasound equipment usually used for physical therapy could be used as a male contraceptive.
A team led by James Tsuruta found that by rotating high frequency ultrasound around the testes they were able to cause uniform reduction in sperm count. Dr Tsuruta said, Unlike humans, rats remain fertile even with extremely low sperm counts. However, our non-invasive ultrasound treatment reduced sperm reserves in rats far below levels normally seen in fertile men.
However further studies are required to determine how long the contraceptive effect lasts and if it is safe to use multiple times. A cheap, effective non-invasive male contraceptive has been a goal of scientists.
The researchers say in their study: An ideal male contraceptive would be inexpensive, reliable and reversible. Other desirable qualities include a low incidence of side effects, prolonged duration of the contraceptive effect and no need for invasive surgical procedures or hormonal treatments.
Men have not had many options for non-invasive, side-effect-free, reliable contraception without resorting to the use of condoms. While the barrier method has proven to be a reliable method to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, it is not always accepted as a family planning method for committed, monogamous couples.
They say ultrasound is a promising candidate for a male contraceptive. But they add that they still need to check that any infertility from ultrasound treatment can be reversed and that there are no long-term bad side effects.
Previous experiments were carried out in the 1970s on men with prostate cancer when it was found short bursts of ultrasound could make men infertile. The men said it was pain-free and it was found to be reversible but the original equipment has been lost. The research is published in BioMed Centrals open access journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology
Source: Daily Mirror