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The procedure is known by the clunky acronym RISUG (for reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance), but it is in fact quite elegant: The substance that Das injected was a nontoxic polymer that forms a coating on the inside of the vas. As sperm flow past, they are chemically incapacitated, rendering them unable to fertilize an egg. More important, it could be reversed easily, with a simple follow-up injection.

If the research pans out, RISUG would represent the biggest advance in male birth control since a clever Polish entrepreneur dipped a phallic mold into liquid rubber and invented the modern condom. “It holds tremendous promise,” says Ronald Weiss, a leading Canadian vasectomy surgeon and a member of a World Health Organization team that visited India to look into RISUG. “If we can prove that RISUG is safe and effective and reversible, there is no reason why anybody would have a vasectomy.”

In both the East and the West, the need for better contraceptives couldn’t be clearer. India will soon surpass China as the world’s most populous nation; in the poorest Indian state, women bear an average of nearly four children. Cheap to produce and relatively easy to administer, RISUG could help poor couples limit their families—increasing their chances of escaping poverty. In the developed countries, it would help relieve women of the risks of long-term birth-control-pill use and give men a more reliable, less annoying option than condoms. About half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned. Come up with a better contraceptive and the likely results are all good: fewer unwanted kids, fewer single parents, and fewer abortions.

-Bill Gifford, The Revolutionary New Birth Control Method for Men

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