Male contraceptive gel: couples being recruited for pioneering

Couples are being recruited to take part in a groundbreaking trial of a male contraceptive gel that could allow men and women to take equal responsibility for birth control in future.

Eighty men in Manchester and Edinburgh will be asked to use a daily gel containing hormones that “send the testes to sleep”, meaning the sperm count drops to zero.

Couples will rely on the gel as their sole contraceptive for a year, as part of a clinical trial to assess how effective it is at preventing pregnancy and whether the side-effects are acceptable.

Richard Anderson, a professor of clinical reproductive science at the University of Edinburgh, who is leading the study, said the method was expected to be more effective than condoms, which in real-life conditions are about 82% effective. “We’re aiming to get it down to the sort of level you get with the pill which is a very small but not zero failure rate,” he said.

The gel, called NES/T, is a hormone-based treatment designed to reduce sperm production without affecting libido and works in a very similar way to the female pill. It contains progestogen, which acts on the brain’s pituitary gland to switch off sperm production. The gel also contains testosterone to offset a drop in the male hormone caused by progestogen, which could otherwise cause unpleasant side-effects.

One of the reasons the quest for a male pill has proved so difficult is because the hormones are quickly metabolised by the liver. A gel gets around this because it is absorbed from the skin directly into the bloodstream.



Lesbian Couple’s Sperm Donor Sues for Parental Rights

A New York state man who supplied his sperm for a lesbian couple’s at-home insemination was denied a paternity test by a state appeals court last week, possibly ending his battle for parental rights over the now 3-year-old girl who was born as a result of his donation.

In a unanimous ruling that put family before biology, a five-judge panel overturned a county family court’s 2015 order that the child undergo a paternity test, finding that not only would the test be against the child’s best interests, but asserting that the “presumption of legitimacy”—a legal term for the general assumption that a child born to a husband and wife is the biological child of both parents—extends to same-sex couples as well (PDF).

“We believe that it must be true that a child born to a same-gender married couple is presumed to be their child and, further, that the presumption of parentage is not defeated solely with proof of the biological fact that, at present, a child cannot be the product of same-gender parents,” Justice Robert Mulvey wrote in a 19-page decision.