Gel shows promise as future male contraceptive

July 3, 2012 By Amanda Gardner, HealthDay Reporter
Gel shows promise as future male contraceptive
Early study found much lower sperm counts in men who applied hormone combo to skin.

(HealthDay) -- Men may one day have a birth-control option other than the condom or vasectomy -- if early research on a new contraceptive gel pans out.

Preliminary findings suggest that when applied to the skin, the gel dramatically lowers sperm counts, thus also lowering -- though not eliminating -- the risk for pregnancy.

This is the first time that a combination of and a synthetic progestin called Nestorone has been tested as a gel that could be applied topically. Previous research involved administering the combination by injection or via a patch, said study senior author Dr. Christina Wang, a professor of medicine at Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute.

The combination contraceptive needs to undergo further testing before it is commercially available.

Although men have sometimes received a bad rap for not being willing to assume responsibility for birth control, Dr. Joseph Alukal, an assistant professor of urology at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York City, thinks this reputation may be somewhat undeserved.

"I think [men] would use it more than is realized," said Alukal, who was not involved in the new research. "Plenty of guys are concerned about , almost as much as women."

Unfortunately, condoms and have remained the only commercially available options for men.

The results of the study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of and Human Development, were presented at the recent Endocrine Society annual meeting, held in Houston.

According to Wang, the gel was applied in two spots -- the testosterone component on the arm and the progestin component on the . The gels were applied every day for six months.

The study, conducted in conjunction with the University of Washington, involved 56 men who were assigned to receive one of three types of gels: one gel containing both testosterone plus a gel containing one of two doses of the synthetic progestin; or a gel containing testosterone on its own plus a "placebo" gel with no progestin.

Up to 89 percent of the men who received the combination formulas saw their sperm concentrations plunge to less than 1 million sperm per milliliter, versus just 23 percent of those receiving only testosterone.

Normal sperm concentration is more than 15 million sperm per milliliter, according to the Mayo Clinic's website.

Up to 78 percent of men receiving the drug combination in the study saw their concentrations drop to no sperm at all, versus only 23 percent of taking testosterone alone.

The testosterone/progestin combination works by shutting off the hormones that control production of sperm in the testes, Wang explained.

One important and unanswered question is what the long-term side effects of this regimen might be.

The answer, said Wang, is "We just don't know."

That's apart from mild-to-moderate acne or an increase in acne, which was seen in about 21 percent of participants.

A new formulation currently being developed that contains half the amount of testosterone might decrease or eliminate that problem, Wang speculated.

Another question is how reversible this would be in terms of restoring counts, Alukal said.

In addition to planning more studies on this combination protocol, Wang is also in early phases of testing the male hormone dimethandrolone, which is more potent than testosterone.

Because the new study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Explore further: New hormonal gel combination shows promise as reversible birth control for men

More information: There's more on contraception at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.


Related Stories

New hormonal gel combination shows promise as reversible birth control for men

June 25, 2012
Male hormonal contraceptives applied daily to the skin reduce sperm production, finds a new study to be presented at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual Meeting in Houston.

Overweight men can boost low testosterone levels by losing weight

June 25, 2012
Weight loss can reduce the prevalence of low testosterone levels in overweight, middle-aged men with prediabetes by almost 50 percent, a new study finds. Results will be presented Monday at The Endocrine Society's 94th Annual ...

Cell phone use may reduce male fertility

May 19, 2011
Men who have been diagnosed with poor sperm quality and who are trying to have children should limit their cell phone use. Researchers have found that while cell phone use appears to increase the level of testosterone circulating ...

Men with deep voice may be lacking in sperm: study

January 9, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Women look for tall, dark and handsome. Those chiseled features and that deep sexy voice have gained the attention of women for generations. However, a new study published in PLoS ONE shows that those ...

Recommended for you

To combat teen smoking, health experts recommend R ratings for movies that depict tobacco use

July 21, 2017
Public health experts have an unusual suggestion for reducing teen smoking: Give just about any movie that depicts tobacco use an automatic R rating.

Why sugary drinks and protein-rich meals don't go well together

July 20, 2017
Having a sugar-sweetened drink with a high-protein meal may negatively affect energy balance, alter food preferences and cause the body to store more fat, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Nutrition.

Aging Americans enjoy longer life, better health when avoiding three risky behaviors

July 20, 2017
We've heard it before from our doctors and other health experts: Keep your weight down, don't smoke and cut back on the alcohol if you want to live longer.

Opioids and obesity, not 'despair deaths,' raising mortality rates for white Americans

July 20, 2017
Drug-related deaths among middle-aged white men increased more than 25-fold between 1980 and 2014, with the bulk of that spike occurring since the mid-1990s when addictive prescription opioids became broadly available, according ...

Parents have critical role in preventing teen drinking

July 20, 2017
Fewer teenagers are drinking alcohol but more needs to be done to curb the drinking habits of Australian school students, based on the findings of the latest study by Adelaide researchers.

Fresh fish oil lowers diabetes risk in rat offspring

July 19, 2017
Fresh fish oil given to overweight pregnant rats prevented their offspring from developing a major diabetes risk factor, Auckland researchers have found.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.