Let’s be clear: I am pro-condom all the way. Nobody likes venereal disease! (Except perhaps for disease scientists, and even they’d mostly rather look at them in petri dishes.)
However, more options to stop unwanted pregnancy are always welcome – particularly from the male perspective. Look at it this way: women have the Pill, patches, the Nuvaring, the coil and numerous other possibilities, all of which can be stopped or removed if they do decide to conceive.
And what do men have? Either condoms, which might break and are only available once per encounter, or vasectomies, which are serious surgeries and very hard to reverse if you meet somebody with whom you would suddenly like to make babies.
That’s not an excellent division of labour – and it would be excellent for men to have more control over their contraception.
Now, however, there’s a new possibility for men to be able to be temporarily infertile – almost like a male Pill. And it involves both lasers and gold.
It may sound like sci-fi, but scientists in China have released research in mice showing that the insertion of gold nanorods – incredibly tiny ‘rods’ completely invisible unless under a phenomenally powerful microscope – into mice testes might be the solution.
If the gold nanorods are then ‘heated’ using infrared light, the fertility of the male mice drops radically – but then recovers after a few months.
Why does this work? Scientists have known for a long time that excess heat kills sperm, but finding a way to apply that heat without causing permanent damage or massive disruption has been difficult.
It turns out that raising the temperature of the testes a few degrees above normal – 36 degrees, where the normal temperature of mice is 29 – was enough to temporarily stop the production of sperm. Any higher, and they were sterilised completely.
Of course, these are only mice. Applying this to human men might have numerous drawbacks. For one, it will involve needles; for another, heating the testes might cause pain and aching afterwards, even if it’s done under local anaesthesia at the time; and nobody has any idea what other knock-on affects it might have on the body.
Plus it would lead to all kinds of ridiculous jokes about ‘golden balls’, and we really don’t need more of that in our lives.
However, it’s being tested immediately to see if it can sterilise pets – it would be much less invasive than neutering – and human testing might follow in the future.
What do you think: genius idea or definitely not on the agenda for your partner?
Lady Friday xx
Taking the pillow talk out of the bedroom, every Friday…