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Sounding Off For Male Contraception

May 21, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Obstetric Ultrasound
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The same technology that’s widely known for the imaging of fetuses may now also be used to prevent their creation.

Two North Carolina researchers think that ultrasound could provide a cheap, safe method of male contraception. They’ve just received a $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to find out.

James Tsuruta, PhD, and Paul Dayton, PhD, call their health research project “Ultrasound as a long-term, reversible contraceptive.” Dr. Tsuruta is an assistant professor in the Laboratories for Reproductive Biology in the University of North Carolina’s Pediatrics Department. Dr. Dayton is associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, which is jointly housed at UNC and North Carolina State University. UNC announced the grant earlier this month.

“Our long-term goal is to use ultrasound from therapeutic instruments that are commonly found in sports medicine or physical therapy clinics as an inexpensive, long-term, reversible male contraceptive suitable for use in developing to First World countries,” Dr. Tsuruta said.

Experiments on rats indicate that a single shot of ultrasound to the testes halted sperm production for six months. When sperm production resumed, there was no evidence of decreased sperm quality or other damage.

The mild heating effect of ultrasound appears to disable sperm cells and reduce the number of the stem cells that replenish them. The researchers plan to determine what minimum intensity of ultrasound is needed to create this result and what the long-term consequences might be, if any. “Establishing safety, efficacy, and reversibility: these are our top concerns,” Dr. Tsuruta said.

Ultrasound was tested in the 1970s on prostate cancer patients, who said they felt no pain, only a gentle warmth. Dr. Tsuruta told The Times of London:

It would be like sitting in a mini-hot tub once every six months.

The project is one of 78 that received Grand Challenges Exploration grants (out of nearly 2,700 proposals). The chosen researchers are in 18 countries on six continents. The $100 million initiative is designed to encourage innovative thinking in global health. Applications are restricted to two pages, and decisions are made within three months after the closing of each funding round. Anyone in any discipline may apply. Preliminary data are not required.

For more about Grand Challenges Exploration, click here.

Related seminar: Ob/Gyn and Abdominal Sonography

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One Response to “Sounding Off For Male Contraception”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » Ultrasound Confirmed As Male Contraceptive on January 31st, 2012 at 11:03 am

    […] reported on the launching of this study in 2010. It built on research done in the 1970s and 1980s by Mostafa Fahim, PhD, of the University […]