Male contraceptive

Male contraceptives include condoms, withdrawal (although medical professionals do not regard this as an effective method of contraception), and vasectomy.[1] In other animals, castration is commonly used for contraception. Other forms of male contraception are in various stages of research and development.[2]


Traditional methods

The withdrawal method has a failure rate of about 4% per year if used correctly at every act of intercourse.[3]

Dioscorides, ca. 40 A.D., described the contraceptive property of hemp seeds (Cannabis sativa) and rue (Ruta graveolens) in De Materia Medica, a text widely used into medieval times.[4] One test in rats (20 milligrams of the 80% ethanol extract) found that these reduced sperm count by more than half.[5] In medieval Persia (and in other traditions as cited) these herbs were used for male contraception, as well as Gossypium herbaceum (Malvaceae),[6] Cyperus longus (Cyperaceae), Vitex pseudonegundo (Verbenaceae), Chenopodium ambrosioides (Chenopodiaceae),[7][8] Aristolochia indica (Aristolochiaceae),[9] Punica granatum (Punicaceae),[10] and Sarcostemma acidum (Asclepiadaceae).[11] However, the compound isolated from Gossypium, as well as other cotton seeds and okra (gossypol) has been abandoned as for contraceptive use because it was found to cause permanent infertility in ten to twenty percent of users.[12]

In Indian traditional medicine, uses of the neem tree were described in Ayurvedic medicine, by Sushruta and in the Rasarathasamucchaya, Sarangadhara, Bhavaprakasha and Bhisagya Ratnavali. Held traditionally to have antifertility effects, its leaves were demonstrated to reduce pregnancy rate and litter size in a test of male rats.[13]

In 1995, researchers isolated compounds from a plant used in Chinese herbal medicine called Tripterygium wilfordii (, lei gong teng).[14]

In 2002, researchers fed extracts from the seeds of papaya fruits (Carica papaya) to monkeys. Subsequently, the monkeys had no sperm in their ejaculate.[15] Traditionally used for contraception, papaya seeds had no apparent ill effects on the testes or other organs of rats tested with a long-term treatment.[16]

In 2002, tests were performed on male rats using oleanolic acid, extracted from Eugenia jambolana, a tree in the southern part of Africa. The tests demonstrated that the chemical was found to reversibly lower the rats' sperm motility without affecting the sperm count.[17]

Heat-based contraception, dating in concept to the writings of Hippocrates, involves heating the testicles to prevent the formation of sperm. Requiring the maintenance of testes at 116 °F (47 °C) (just below the threshold of pain) for 45 minutes, it is not a widely appealing technique, but a variant employing ultrasound has been under investigation.[18]

Methods in development

Pharmaceutical methods

One goal of research is to develop a male oral contraceptive, a male contraceptive that can be taken in pill form by mouth, similar to the existing oral contraceptive pill for women.

  • Calcium channel blockers such as nifedipine may cause reversible infertility by altering the lipid metabolism of sperm so that they are not able to fertilize an egg.[19] Recent Research at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University show that as of June 2010, such a pill may be five years away. Testing it on mice has been found to be effective, with no side effects.[20]
  • A compound that interferes with the vitamin A pathway has been shown to render male mice sterile for the course of the treatment without affecting libido. Once taken off the compound, the mice continued to make sperm. The mechanism of action includes blocking the conversion of vitamin A into its active form retinoic acid which binds to retinoic receptors which is needed to initiate sperm production.[21][22]
  • Adjudin, a non-toxic analog of lonidamine has been shown to cause reversible infertility in rats.[23] The drug disrupts the junctions between nurse cells (Sertoli cells) in the testes and forming spermatids. The sperm are released prematurely and never become functional gametes. A new targeted delivery mechanism has made Adjudin much more effective.[24]
  • Gamendazole, a derivative of lonidamine, shows semi-reversible infertility in rats. The mechanism of action is thought to be disruption of Sertoli cell function, resulting in decreased levels of inhibin B.[25]
  • Multiple male hormonal contraceptive protocols have been developed. One is a combination protocol, involving injections of Depo-Provera to prevent spermatogenesis, combined with the topical application of testosterone gel to provide hormonal support.[26][27] Another is a monthly injection of testosterone undecanoate, which recently performed very well in a Phase III trial in China.[28][29]
  • Research has been performed on interference with the maturation of sperm in the epididymis.[30][31]
  • Phenoxybenzamine has been found to block ejaculation, which not only gives it the potential to be an effective contraceptive, but could also lead to much cleaner sex. Studies have found that the quality of the semen is unaffected and the results are reversible by simply discontinuing the treatment.[32]
  • Silodosin, an α1-adrenoceptor antagonist with high uroselectivity, has been shown to completely block ejaculation in human males while permitting the sensation of orgasm.
  • Trestolone is an anabolic steroid that has been shown to significantly reduce sperm count.

Other techniques

Abandoned research

  • Miglustat (Zavesca or NB-DNJ) is a drug approved for treatment of several rare lipid storage disorder diseases. In mice, it provided effective and fully reversible contraception. But it seems this effect was only true for several genetically related strains of laboratory mice. Miglustat showed no contraceptive effect in other mammals.[33]


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  4. ^ Dioscorides (ca. 40 A.D.). De Materia Medica.  (translated by Goodyer (1655), modified and published 1933 by Robert Gunther). The herbs are said to "extinguish conception".
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