Male birth control — and we don't mean condoms — might be available to men as soon as the year 2017. Vasalgel is a multiyear contraceptive that is not unlike a vasectomy, but guys can rest easy — no snipping is involved, and the process is more easily reversed. Here's what we know about it so far:
1. It's a shot: Vasalgel is injected into the vas deferens, or the reproductive tube that sperm swim through, so no cuts are made.
2. How it works: When the polymer is injected into the vas deferens, it functions as a blocker for sperm that try to enter the reproductive tube.
3. The effects are long-acting but easily reversed: While Vasalgel is marketed as a long-term birth control method, if a man decides he no longer wants it to be in effect, the polymer is flushed out.
4. It's still being developed: According to a recent press release from the Parsemus Foundation, a nonprofit focused on low-cost medical approaches, studies of the polymer have been progressing successfully. Three baboons have been on Vasalgel for six months and exposed to 10-15 females each, with no occurrence of pregnancy in that time.
5. If proven successful, Vasalgel could change reproductive health as we know it: By blocking sperm at the source — the male — rather than placing the responsibility on the woman's body to play defense, the need for female birth control may shift. Hormonal birth control methods run countless health risks for women, but the Vasalgel polymer does not affect male testosterone in order to do its job, which could make it potentially safer than most female birth control methods.
6. The developers have high hopes for its release: As of September 2014, the company's plan is for clinical trials on humans to begin at the start of 2015, with a target release date sometime in 2017.