By Trisha Chowdhury
Researchers at the University of North Carolina are investigating a new contraceptive technique involving a testicular ‘zap’ using ultrasound waves.
According to the scientists, an ultrasound dose to the testicles can reduce the production of sperm.
The ultrasound technique could prove to be a “promising candidate” for a modern-day contraception method.
It was found that two doses of fifteen minute intervals reduced the count of sperm-producing cells substantially, thus lowering the sperm levels.
The study, published in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology undertakes a theory that was first proposed in the 1970s.
The research is now being followed up by a team, and is being funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The study, which was carried out on rats, concluded that ultrasound waves caused a decrease in sperm count to a level which is considered infertile for humans.
The most significant results were determined when the testicular zaps were carried out two days apart and when the ultrasound waves were delivered through warm salt water.
The results of the research showed that, for rats, the sperm count dropped to below 10 million sperm per millilitre. For an average human being, 15 million sperm per millilitre is considered ‘sub-fertile’ or levels where the chances of pregnancy are abnormally low.
Dr James Tsuruta, the Lead Researcher of the team, said, “Further studies are required to determine how long the contraceptive effect lasts and if it is safe to use multiple times.”
Though the research has tremendous potential, a lot of further progress is required to ensure that there are no adverse effects in the long run. It has to be ensured that repeated doses do not have a damaging effect on the human body.
The process also needs to be reversible to ensure that the motive of contraception is achieved and does lead to sterilisation.
There is also a possible threat of the ‘zapped’ sperm producing an abnormal foetus if fertilisation does occur once sperm production is resumed after the period of contraception ends.
A senior lecturer of Andrology at the University of Sheffield, Dr Allan Pacey, said: “It’s a nice idea, but a lot more work is needed.”
The research is a significant step in right direction for birth control but the possible threats cannot be ignored.
More efforts are required by the researchers to provide evidence which will eliminate the doubts about the safety of the method.