Ultrasound Treatment Shows Potential as Male Contraceptive Therapy

Ultrasound Treatment Shows Potential as Male Contraceptive Therapy

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The ideal male contraceptive would be inexpensive, reliable and reversible. It would need to be long acting but have few side effects.

New research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, published in BioMed Central’s open-access journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, used commercially available therapeutic ultrasound equipment to reduce sperm counts of male rats to levels which would result in infertility in humans.

Ultrasound’s potential as a male contraceptive was first reported nearly 40 years ago. However, the equipment used at that time is now outdated and no longer available. UNC researchers used these experiments as a starting point to see if modern ultrasound equipment usually used for physical therapy could be used as a male contraceptive.

The team, led by James Tsuruta, PhD, found that by rotating high frequency (3MHz) ultrasound around the testes they were able to cause uniform depletion of germ cells through the testes.

“Unlike humans, rats remain fertile even with extremely low sperm counts. However, our non-invasive ultrasound treatment reduced sperm reserves in rats far below levels normally seen in fertile men. However, further studies are required to determine how long the contraceptive effect lasts and if it is safe to use multiple times,” Tsuruta said.

The best results were seen using two sessions consisting of 15 minutes ultrasound, two days apart. Saline was used to provide conduction between the ultrasound transducer and skin, and the testes were warmed to 37 degrees centigrade. Together this reduced sperm to a Sperm Count Index of zero (3 million motile sperm per cauda epididymis).

The World Health Organization has defined oligospermia (low sperm concentration) as less than 15 million sperm per milliliter. Ninety-five percent of fertile men have more than 39 million sperm in their ejaculate.

Background

Studies published in the 1970s by Mostafa S. Fahim and colleagues showed that a short treatment with ultrasound caused the depletion of germ cells and infertility. The goal of the current study was to determine if a commercially available therapeutic ultrasound generator and transducer could be used as the basis for a male contraceptive.

Methods

Sprague-Dawley rats were anesthetized and their testes were treated with 1 MHz or 3 MHz ultrasound while varying power, duration and temperature of treatment.

Results

We found that 3 MHz ultrasound delivered with 2.2 Watt per square cm power for fifteen minutes was necessary to deplete spermatocytes and spermatids from the testis and that this treatment significantly reduced epididymal sperm reserves. 3 MHz ultrasound treatment reduced total epididymal sperm count 10-fold lower than the wet-heat control and decreased motile sperm counts 1,000-fold lower than wet-heat alone. The current treatment regimen provided nominally more energy to the treatment chamber than Fahim’s originally reported conditions of 1 MHz ultrasound delivered at 1 Watt per square cm for ten minutes. However, the true spatial average intensity, effective radiating area and power output of the transducers used by Fahim were not reported, making a direct comparison impossible. We found that germ cell depletion was most uniform and effective when we rotated the therapeutic transducer to mitigate non-uniformity of the beam field. The lowest sperm count was achieved when the coupling medium (3% saline) was held at 37 degrees C and two consecutive 15-minute treatments of 3 MHz ultrasound at 2.2 Watt per square cm were separated by 2 days.

Conclusions

The non-invasive nature of ultrasound and its efficacy in reducing sperm count make therapeutic ultrasound a promising candidate for a male contraceptive. However, further studies must be conducted to confirm its efficacy in providing a contraceptive effect, to test the result of repeated use, to verify that the contraceptive effect is reversible and to demonstrate that there are no detrimental, long-term effects from using ultrasound as a method of male contraception.

Source : http://news.unchealthcare.org/news/2012/january/sonicating-sperm-the-future-of-male-contraception

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