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‘Sticky beads’ that trap sperm are the latest bright idea for contraception

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As far as contraception is concerned, it’s safe to say that the human race has yet to find the perfect solution. But, thankfully, researchers are showing no sign of giving up. 

Scientists have just announced that they have developed a new form of contraception: 'sticky beads'.

Researchers discovered that by coating agarose beads (carbohydrates extracted from seaweed) with the same peptide that binds sperm cells to eggs, and implanted them in the uterus of mice, they can effectively prevent pregnancy. 

The beads essentially acted as 'decoys': sperm cells were drawn to the beads, rather than the egg, and the female mice didn’t get pregnant.

The results of the experiment have been published in the journal Science Translational Medicine

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Could sticky beads spell the end for the Pill?

Researchers tested the sticky beads in the lab before trying them out on mice. Motherboard quotes Dr. Jurrien Dean of the National Institute of Health as saying: “The beads were implanted into the mice and were well-tolerated, not harming the mice or affecting their reproductive tract and mating behaviour.” 

But while any contraceptive developments are exciting, don’t hold your breath to see Sticky Beads™ in Boots anytime soon. For a start, there’s no conclusive evidence that the beads would also work in humans, but scientists also need to figure out how to get the beads to stay in the uterus.

Most of the beads ended up being 'lost' over the course of several weeks, presumably via discharge from the reproductive tract. Because of this, all of the female mice used in the experiment eventually produced a litter of mouse babies, which isn’t really what you want from your birth control.

The researchers at the National Institute of Health also think that the sticky beads could be used for infertility treatments, as they could help select the healthiest sperm.

We're still holding out for the male pill...

Images: iStock

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