Sperm-blocking vaginal gel could be a reliable contraceptive method

A gel that has prevented nearly all of 1 billion sperm getting previous the cervix in sheep could change into a substitute for hormonal contraception strategies however with out the negative effects

Health

30 November 2022

By Alice Klein
Sperm could be stopped from reaching eggs by a vaginal gelSebastian Kaulitzki/Alamy Stock Photo
A gel that’s utilized contained in the vagina has been proven to dam sperm injected into feminine sheep and will present a substitute for hormonal contraceptives for folks.
Hormone-based contraception strategies, just like the contraceptive tablet and hormonal intrauterine units (IUDs), are extremely efficient however may cause negative effects, together with temper adjustments, decreased intercourse drive, sore breasts, nausea and complications.
Non-hormonal strategies like condoms, diaphragms and fertility monitoring apps don’t have these negative effects however are inclined to be much less reliable at stopping pregnancies.

Now, Ulrike Schimpf at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden and her colleagues have developed a hormone-free vaginal gel that will work in addition to hormonal contraceptives however with out the negative effects.
The gel incorporates chitosan, a biopolymer that’s derived from fungus or crab shells. The chitosan varieties cross-links with proteins which can be secreted in cervical mucus. This thickens the mucus in order that it blocks sperm from getting previous the cervix and into the fallopian tubes, the place egg fertilisation happens.
The researchers used a syringe applicator to insert the gel in direction of the backs of the vaginas of sheep, that are much like these in people. An hour later, they artificially inseminated every of the eight sheep examined with 1 billion sperm.
The gel was discovered to unfold all through the vagina and into the doorway of the cervix. It shaped an efficient barrier, with sperm managing to get previous the cervix of solely one of many sheep within the research, and in that case it was simply two of the 1 billion swimmers.

Unlike chemical spermicides, that are one other type of non-hormonal contraception, the chitosan gel didn’t trigger irritation of the vaginal partitions, which can make it much less irritating to make use of.
Schimpf and her colleagues are planning extra research in sheep to check whether or not the barrier created by the gel stays intact throughout sexual activity and prevents pregnancies.
Trials in folks would additionally be wanted to find out how lengthy earlier than intercourse the gel ought to be inserted into the vagina and the way lengthy any safety would final.
Journal reference: Science Translational Medicine, DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abm2417
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