UVa Researchers Make Vasectomy Breakthrough

By: Matt Holmes Email
By: Matt Holmes Email

Friday November 14, 2008

To snip or not to snip; that's a question millions of men the world over face everyday.

They've taken their concerns to the blogosphere and while many are happy with the results, others are finding out the vasectomy is not a surefire way to prevent pregnancy.

"It does happen," UVa Cell Biology Professor John Herr says. "It's not an infrequent thing; I guess that's the best way to say it."

Herr and his team began work at UVa in 1981 on finding a gene that would allow men to use a home test to determine whether or not their vasectomies had essentially zeroed out their sperm counts.

"We discovered a protein that was present only in the sperm head and not in any other tissue in the body and that led then to the ability to make a product like this," Herr says.

The product they developed is SpermCheck, a test that can be done in the privacy of one's home in a matter of minutes.

Herr says the reason for the test is simple: guys don't like going to the doctor.

"About 30 percent of men do not return for the first required visit after a vasectomy," Herr explains. "Upwards of 70 percent of men may not return for the second post-vasectomy visit."

With SpermCheck, Herr says men can mail their results into their doctor's office, meaning no poking, no prodding and no co-pays.

"This is a cost-saving measure in the current environment where we're trying to reduce medical costs and it's much more convenient, especially if you live far away from your urologist."

SpermCheck will hit store shelves nationwide in January and is expected to run about $30.

For more information on the product, go to http://www.contravac.com/products/spermcheck/vasectomy.asp.

Researchers say the next step for SpermCheck is developing a test that will tell men who have had reverse vasectomies if their procedures were successful. That work is going on in UVa labs right now.

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