A German carpenter, Clemens Bimek, frustrated with the current state of options for male contraception, has boldly taken matters into his own hands. He has developed an implantable valve, the Bimek SLV, that can adjust the flow of semen with a simple switch, theoretically providing fully reversible birth control for men.
He details the history of his invention in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine. Many years ago he came up with the idea while watching a television program on male anatomy. He thought that the dubiously reversible nature of a vasectomy was suboptimal. He thought that perhaps an implantable valve and switch could solve this issue. He couldn’t stop thinking about the concept, and was granted a patent for it in the year 2000. He subsequently developed a prototype in 2006. In a rather courageous move he had the device surgically implanted on himself, joining famous self-experimenters such as Dr. Barry Marshall, who infected himself with H. pylori, and Dr. Werner Forssmann, who performed the first cardiac catheterization on himself. Bimek’s procedure was performed under local anesthesia so he could help guide the surgeon with technical details regarding installation of the device. He also subsequently had a surgical revision to a newer prototype.
Two devices must be implanted, one on each vas deferens, to be functional. Grossly the device is a simple on/off valve that controls the flow of semen in the vas deferens. During implantation the vas deferens is transected and the ends are attached to the respective in/out tubes of the device. The valve can be closed by pressing a switch that can be palpated through the scrotum. Once in the closed position the device diverts semen out of the vas deferens into the scrotal tissue, where it is theoretically metabolized and harmlessly absorbed. To re-open the valve, a separate safety button must be held while the switch is then manipulated back into the open position. The device is built from PEEK Optima, a biocompatible polymer commonly used in implants, and also has some non-magnetic metallic components.
The Bimek SLV is estimated to cost around $5,460. It is important to note that there will still be sperm present in ejaculate for about a month post-closure or 30 ejaculations. This probably is not a great solution to provide temporary contraception for “heat of the moment” type situations. In addition, the implant does not prevent the communication of sexually transmitted infections such as herpes and HIV.
There are definitely some questions regarding what appears to be a relatively novel technology. There are concerns that scar tissue may build up around the device which could potentially constrict the vas deferens and lead to infertility. Also it is unclear how the device’s sperm conduit would function long term in the “open” position, as it could potentially clog and lead to unintended blockage of sperm flow. Bimek states that this issue is easily resolved by a simple in-office tube cleaning procedure, which doesn’t sound like the most enjoyable clinic visit.
Bimek is ready to take his device into clinical trials. An initial trial with 25 men is scheduled for later this year. He is looking for additional male volunteers and funding (including crowdfunding), to prove the safety and efficacy of his device. Interestingly, he seems to be strongly against animal research, with his website advertising that the device is “100% Vegan,” thus the immediate jump to in-human trials. Reportedly his own implants seem to be functioning quite well with no issues at the moment.
Official website: Bimek SLV…
(hat tip: Engadget)