Experimental Male Birth Control Is Magnets That Heat Up Your Testicles
The ol' spicy magnet trick worked great — and was totally reversible — in mice.
A team of scientists from China’s Nantong University just completed animal tests for an interesting new approach to male birth control — but you probably won’t enjoy hearing how they got there.
The one-simple-trick involved injecting mice with magnetic nanomaterials, using external magnets to guide the particles into their testicles, and then using another magnetic field to heat their you-know-whats so much that they temporarily stopped producing sperm, according to research published this month in the journal Nano Letters.
Now look, maybe you’re wincing a little or crossing your legs as you read this, and we assure you that you can relax. Believe it or not, this approach to male contraception is actually a lot less unpleasant than similar attempts, a new press release on the research claims. Other experiments used higher temperatures to achieve longer-lasting results, but they also risked causing burn injuries or required painful injections directly into the testes themselves — both of which this new experiment avoided.
In the experiment, the researchers found success after heating the little magnets that they’d guided into the mouse testes to just 104 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s certainly a noticeable amount of heat, and considerably warmer than your typical body temperature, but it’s still seemingly safe. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technologies, your skin will start to experience first degree burns at 118 degrees F, so it’s reasonable to suggest that the warmed magnets won’t damage anything that they’re not supposed to.
On top of that, the treatment worked for months at a time, after which the mice that were injected with the magnetic nanomaterials returned to their usual reproductive health. Initially, the mouse testes shrank a bit and stopped producing new sperm in response to the heat. Seven days after treatment, the mice were firing nothing but blanks. But by day 60, the treated mice were back to fathering litters of around 12 pups per female, just like normal.
That suggests that when it comes to family planning, a treatment like this that could eventually become available for humans would be far from the nuclear option. Because the treatment was designed to be temporary and the biodegradable nanomaterials vanish over time, it seems like opting to take a little heat for a month or two of birth control won’t mess with anyone’s long-term plans for parenthood.
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READ MORE: A reversible male contraceptive, targeted to the testes with magnets [American Chemical Society]
More on male birth control: Scientists Claim They’ve Developed a Male Birth Control Pill — Again