New contraceptive linked to men’s animal urges
Scientists today published preliminary studies into a new contraceptive for men, designed to be worn as a slow release patch or as an implant under the skin.
Previous efforts at male contraception have suffered from several drawbacks, namely compliance of the males, and lack of trust on behalf of the female partners to believe that their beloved male is actually taking the contraceptive.
Females have always been keen to be the primary users of contraceptive, since they are left holding the baby, so to speak. This new form of contraceptive solves both these problems in a unique and stimulating way.
The contraceptive itself works by removing the flagella of the sperm, rendering it non-motile, and hence unable to travel to fertilise the ovum. But it is not this effect which has had the scientists excited.
By sophisticated patented gene splicing techniques, the Lapmonic Institute of Male Productivity has managed to make use of the unique properties of scrotal skin tissue.
Dr Oma Liigo has taken the skin pattern genes from both the zebra and the chicit (a rare spotted marsupial possum), “piggy-backed” them onto a male contraceptive, and induced colour change in the scrotal tissue of other mammals.
Originally working with rats and guinea pigs, which have easily visible scrota, Dr Liigo and his team, after many years, produced scrotal patterns of stripes (from the zebra gene) and spots (chicit gene).
There were no side effects such as loss of libido, or any health related issues. The only side effect noted was in two subjects who experienced patterning further along the penis, as well as the scrotum.
This was not seen as a drawback. Male rats with patterned scrota were 99.2 per cent less likely to get a female pregnant. Success was then achieved with primates, although colour patterning with two monkeys, the rhesus and spider monkey was quite pale.
One pregnancy did occur in 200 test subjects over two years, representing approximately 1000 possible reproductive episodes. No side effects were noted.
Once patches or implants were removed, the pattern faded over several days, sooner than fertility returned, which normally can take one to two weeks. Fertility was readily assessed by microscopically assessment for the presence of flagellate sperm and for general sperm motility.
After three years, human trials of the contraceptive, tentatively called “Proiallof”, were approved and carried out.
Results were better than expected; patterning for the implantable contraceptive was stronger than the patch, probably as a result of a higher hormone plateau being achieved. No pregnancies occurred within the test group. Test subjects responded with varying degrees of acceptance to the patterning on their scrotums (50 per cent ‘yes’, 30 per cent neutral, 20 per cent ‘no’).
Acceptance increased by about 20 per cent (65 per cent/20 per cent/15 per cent) when researchers changed the names of the two patterns (originally zebra and chicit), to tiger and leopard; and it is expected that the latter two animals will be used in the marketing of the contraceptive, namely as Proiallof-T™ and Proiallof-L™, respectively.
An increase in libido was also reported by 38 per cent of test subjects, although the number of subjects was too small to say whether this was induced by the hormonal effects of the contraceptive, the patterning gene, or was just a psychosomatic response to the patterning.
Some obvious dilemmas faced by the new treatment were put to Dr Liigo. He was asked whether there is a chance that men could bypass the contraceptive and just use the genetic component to “enhance” their appearance, thereby looking as though they are “safe”.
Dr Liigo said:
The two components of the contraceptive are intrinsically linked. The contraceptive will obviously work on its own without patterning, since this is not new technology - using a combination of progestin and testosterone - but the patterning will not appear without the contraceptive. We tested many animals patterns, and these are the only two which we could induce to appear, and then only with the contraceptive.
As to promoting promiscuity; Dr Liigo responded that that is in the nature and culture of some men, and women, to be promiscuous, and it would be no worse than any other non-barrier method of contraception.
It is not the contraception that is new, it is the combination and packaging which will hopefully increase its use, particularly in countries where population is an issue. Men need not worry about their wives and girlfriends getting pregnant. Any step towards reducing the population explosion in developing countries should be encouraged, not condemned.
The use of the contraceptive has received criticism, as it does nothing to protect against sexually transmitted diseases. Dr Liigo again related this to the morality of non-barrier female contraception, such as the pill. If Proiallof was used in a stable relationship, as designed, less pregnancy would occur. No other claims would be made or indeed, implied.
What this does, Dr Liigo claimed, is solve two problems associated with the use of male contraception. Men are not averse to have their scrotums patterned in the colours of animals they see as strong, namely the tiger and leopard, and their partners can see at a glance that contraception is being taken.
Although the human tests were successful, testing protocols for public use and approvals for large-scale production could mean that the contraceptive would not be available for at least five years.
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