A temporary alternative to vasectomies involving a sperm-blocking gel is being trialed in Australia. In the new method, a non-hormonal hydrogel is implanted into the sperm ducts, dissolving after two years.
ADAM is a gel and delivery system made by medical device company Contraline, who say on their website that “ADAMTM is designed to block sperm from traveling through the vas deferens without affecting sensation or ejaculation. Sperm that are blocked naturally degrade and become absorbed. At the end of its lifespan, the hydrogel liquefies, removing the barrier to sperm flow.”
“If it is successful, it could be a game-changer, ensuring that contraception is a shared responsibility between couples,” urologist Professor Nathan Lawrentschuk, principal investigator of the study, said in a statement.
The trial is taking place at Epworth Freemasons Hospital in Melbourne, where four of the 25 study participants have already been injected. Contraline states that the gel is implanted via a minimally invasive “quick injection” alongside local anesthesia, with the procedure taking under 30 minutes.
“The implantation procedures went extremely well, and the patients were all discharged quickly after the surgeries,” Lawrentschuk said in another statement.
According to a clinical trial page, the estimated study completion date is June 30, 2025. Participants will give semen samples for 3 years, with the study examining the “percentage of subjects achieving absolute azoospermia, defined as a zero sperm count, and percentage of subjects achieving virtual azoospermia, defined as a sperm count of ≤100,000 per milliliter and 0 percent motility."
"In this instance, men would be in control of their own contraception and can enter into the fray which is often placed on their partner,” Lawrentschuk told ABC News. "There might be many circumstances where it could be extremely useful – their partner can't take contraception, they may have come out of a long relationship where they want a period of known inability to have a child."
As you can probably imagine, people are incredibly eager to give this a go, given the relative lack of options for male contraception. “The patient demand for the ADAM Study has been tremendous, with the entire trial oversubscribing within three weeks of opening enrollment,” Co-Founder and CEO of Contraline Kevin Eisenfrats said.
Other research in this field involves heating nuts with magnets or dipping them in a little ultrasound bath.
Contraline originated as a team of undergraduates at the University of Virginia competing in the Collegiate Inventors Competition, winning two prizes for their work. They were developing a polymer gel as an alternative method to neuter cats and dogs, eventually turning the approach to humans, aiming to make the gel visible via ultrasound so it can be more easily checked.
“We’re working with using an ultrasound to perform the injection through the skin. It’s more like a flu shot than a surgical procedure,” Eisenfrats said in a 2015 statement. “Really we’re just creating an all-around male contraceptive that is innovative and can work across species.”