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Indonesian plant may represent male birth-control breakthrough

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Gandarusa, a six-foot tall, leafy shrub native to Indonesia, may represent a long-sought breakthrough in the quest for a male birth-control pill.

The plant doesn't affect male hormones but rather alters the chemistry on the tip of each individual spermatozoon, making them unable to pierce the outer wall of the female egg, or oocyte.

Dr. Dyan Pramesti, head of the clinical trial:

"It [gandarusa] interferes with the enzyme which is located on the sperm head. The enzyme is needed to perforate the wall of the oocyte. If the enzyme is not active, or reduces the activity, the sperm cannot perforate the wall of the oocyte."

Adding to the mounting pile of evidence that suggests gandarusa would make a good over-the-counter daily male birth-control pill is the fact that the enzyme's effect is not permanent. On average, men were fertile again just two months after they stopped taking the pill in clinical trials.

Bambang Prajogo (best name ever!), another member of the research team:

"We've done two rounds of testing on humans and so far, no pregnancies have resulted. We are now starting Phase 3 testing with 350 couples and we are hoping we will continue with our 100 percent success rate."

The pill also boasts a lack of side effects. One of the researchers says the biggest problem with gandarusa is getting men of Indonesia acclimated to the idea of taking birth control; many of them view family planning as the woman's responsibility.

Gandarusa might be available in Indonesian stores as early as next year, though it will probably take years of trials and research for it to reach the United States, which is a shame. We need more birth-control options for men in the United States. And it'd be nice to have an option for men that doesn't mercilessly fuck with the body's hormones, like female birth control does. Men are kind of whiny when it comes to birth control (think of how much we bitch about condoms). A once-daily pill with no side effects could be a great way to balance out the distribution of responsibility for family planning among couples.