Ultrasound Offers Painless Contraception For Men

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While ultrasound technology is familiar to most people as a diagnostic imaging technique — it’s what obstetricians use to monitor the health of a developing fetus, for example — the technology has been making recent headlines for an entirely different reason.


Therapeutic ultrasound, which can be used to increase the temperature of a specific area of issue, appears to be effective as a contraceptive technique for men, explains the Male Contraceptive Information Project:

Ultrasound is now working in rats, dogs, AND monkeys! University of California researchers are finding that it appears to take longer in monkeys than in rats — they’ve done 3 treatments (Monday-Wednesday-Friday) of 30 minutes each—and gotten 6 weeks of effect. An Italian team (Leoci et al.) has gotten permanent sterilization in dogs with 2 treatments 2 days apart. The University of North Carolina results in rats (Tsuruta et al.) are being published on January 29, 2012.

For the same reason that men with difficulty conceiving are advised to avoid Jacuzzis and binding undergarments, the heat from a therapeutic ultrasounding of the testes painlessly increases their temperature by just enough to impact sperm production. While ultrasound as an alterative to vasectomy isn’t currently an option (as long-term effects and efficacy aren’t known), researchers feel that the technology has promise as a male contraceptive.

Study: Therapeutic ultrasound as a potential male contraceptive: power, frequency and temperature required to deplete rat testes of meiotic cells and epididymides of sperm determined using a commercially available system

Source: Male Contraceptive Information Project

About the Author

Kirstin Hendrickson, Ph.D., is a science journalist and faculty in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Arizona State University. She has a PhD in Chemistry, and studied mechanisms of damage to DNA during her graduate career. Kirstin also holds degrees in Zoology and Psychology. Currently, both in her teaching and in her writing, she’s interested in methods of communicating about science, and in the reciprocal relationship between science and society. She has written a textbook called Chemistry In The World, which focuses on the ways in which chemistry affects everyday life, and the ways in which humans affect each other and the environment through chemistry.