The year: 2014. Imagine the scene: A man's wife doesn't feel good on the Pill. He'd like to have the "old her" back, and figures it's his turn to take responsibility for contraception. But they want another child, so vasectomy is not an option. So what does he do? While he drops his electric car off for a quick charge, he pops into the doctor's office for a recharge of his own: 15 minutes of ultrasound treatment, for 6 months of contraception.
Sound futuristic? It's not. The effect of ultrasound on sperm production has been known since the 1970's, but never pursued since then. But with Monday's announcement of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations grant to a team at the University of North Carolina, this method may finally have its day.
The late Dr. Mostafa Fahim at the University of Missouri-Columbia was the first to have the idea to try ultrasound for contraception-- the same ultrasound used daily by physical therapists to treat injuries. He found that with 10-15 minutes of the painless warming waves to the testes, animals from rats to rabbits to monkeys, cats, and dogs would have 6 months of contraception-- and even tried it in 8 men. The men didn't find it uncomfortable. Applying it multiple times 48 hours apart in animals appeared to result in permanent sterilization, with no vasectomy needed.
"But it seemed too crazy to be true," explains Elaine Lissner, director of the nonprofit Male Contraception Information Project. "Nobody took him seriously, especially after another researcher-- who happened to not have a foreign-sounding name-- published that he tried it and it didn't work. But that researcher used entirely different conditions. Dr. Fahim got pretty bitter about it, which didn't help." Dr. Fahim passed away in 1995 without ever being vindicated.
However, a small group believed in Dr. Fahim's work. Dr. Min Wang, a colleague
|Contact: Elaine Lissner|
Male Contraception Information Project