July 31 - Scientists in California are reporting promising results with an experimental contraceptive gel for men. Using a combination of two hormones, the researchers say they have been able to lower the sperm count of males significantly, bringing a new era of male responsibility for birth control a big step closer. Ben Gruber reports.
==RESENDING WITH CORRECTED TYPO IN INTRO== Why should the burden of birth control lie solely on the woman? That's the question that prompted UCLA medical professor Christine Wang to begin researching the idea of a male contraceptive. And that research is yielding results. Wang and her team have developed a contraceptive gel that temporarily decreases male sperm count - to levels below what's normally needed for reproduction. The gel contains a combination of the male hormone testosterone, which inhibits a man's ability to produce sperm, and a synthetic progestin called Nestorone, which amplifies the effects of testosterone. Professor Wang conducted a clinical trial on 99 men using the gel over a 6 month period. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR CHRISTINA WANG, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, LA BIOMEDICAL INSTITUTE, HARBOR-UCLA MEDICAL CENTER, SAYING: "The study in effect showed two things. First thing is that the addition of the Nestorone to the testosterone, the male hormone gel, made the combination much more effective in the suppression of sperm production, than the testosterone, the male hormone gel, alone. The second thing we showed is that if we used the two combined gels together, about close to 90% -- 89% of the men had suppressed sperm coming to very low levels that may be compatible with contraception." Wang says that 78 percent of the men in the trial had no sperm production at all, with no ill side effects. The team is now focused on improving the contraceptive formula to 99 percent efficacy.. and producing it in oral pill form. Wang believes a male contraceptive will level the playing field in intimate relationships. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR CHRISTINA WANG, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, LA BIOMEDICAL INSTITUTE, HARBOR-UCLA MEDICAL CENTER, SAYING: "It also obviously helps relieve the burden on the woman to take contraceptive things. So it's family planning, sharing the responsibility, and I think also if men are taking contraceptive they become more aware of their reproductive health, and in general it will benefit men's health." But will it change the nature of sexual relationships? Opinion is mixed. SOUNDBITE) (English) MALE VOXPOP, SAYING: "It'd just save a lot of hassle, putting on condoms and what not. I think a pill would be a good idea, in my opinion." (SOUNDBITE) (English) FEMALE VOXPOP, SAYING: "I think it's good for men to have the opportunity to do that for themselves, because women can just make that choice and take the pills or do whatever they need to do, so it's nice for men to be able to take care of themselves and not just trust women to take the pills all the time." (SOUNDBITE) (English) MALE VOXPOP, SAYING: "I'm sure men would want the responsibility in their own hands and not someone else's or someone else's word, which you know, I'm sure it hasn't gone right for everybody." Dr Wang's male pill is still a work in progress. And the discussion is likely to continue for years to come. . Ben Gruber, Reuters.