The study involves iron nanorods, an electric coil, and other scary things
To all the ladies out there, we have some good news. There’s finally progress being made in terms of male birth control. And to all the guys out there, buckle up because it doesn’t sound pleasant at all.
A research team from the Institute of Reproductive Medicine at Nantong University, China has published an interesting study. The group found that injecting nanoparticles in mice testicles, and then later heating them with an electric coil can temporarily reduce fertility.
This isn’t the first time scientists have found themselves deep inside mice’s testicles. Back in 2013, the use of nanotechnology to warm testicles was first studied by biologist Fei Sun and his research team.
Initially, he tried injecting the nanoparticles, made out of gold atoms, directly into the testicles. Then, infrared radiation was used to warm them from 30 C to between 37 and 45 C, depending upon the concentration of nanoparticles and the intensity of the radiation.
However, soon they started noticing heat lesions on the skin around the mice’s testicles. Assuming that the procedure was painful, it was promptly dropped, until last year. In the new method, the nanorods were now composed of magnetic iron oxide. While retaining the same shape and size as before, they were now coated with citric acid instead of ethylene glycol.
These particles were directly injected into the mice’s veins. After anesthetizing it, a magnet was then placed near the mice’s testicles for four hours to draw the nanoparticles there. This procedure was repeated for one to four days.
After the last day of the treatment, an electric coil was wrapped around the testicles and an electric current was passed. The resulting magnetic field heated the nanorod and the testicles. Slowly, the temperature increased from 29 C to 37 C and then 42 C.
The increase in temperature led to the shrinking of the testicles. After seven days, fertility was down. In some cases, it was eliminated. However, it did show a gradual recovery after 60 days. No difference in the sperm was noticed, nor were there any morphological defects on the new litter of mice pups.
Sun’s team also found that, unlike the gold nanorods which stayed in the mouse testicles, the iron nanorods were eliminated into the liver and spleen, before being fully eliminated from the body.
Of course, the ultimate aim here is human contraception. But Sun admits that we’re still a long way off it. Detailed studies are required to establish that nano-contraception isn’t toxic for men.
Additionally, not everyone would be comfortable with being under anesthesia for four hours and having an electric coil wrapped around their testicles. Sun hopes to find a different way to guide the magnetic nanorods to the testicles.
Yet still, it remains to be seen just how many men will be comfortable with temporarily shrunken testicles.