Sperm-killing ultrasound waves are a male contraceptive
A revolutionary ultrasound treatment is being hailed as a potential male contraceptive method after it performed well in initial trials.
Researchers are suggesting that using high frequency ultrasound waves to zap the testicles can cut sperm counts in males.
Their suggestions came after trials found that this technique effectively cut the sperm counts in rats to a level that would be equal with infertility in humans.
According to the scientists from the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine, the ultrasound contraceptive is cheap, effective, reliable and most importantly, reversible.
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Rotating ultrasound waves with a high frequency of 3MHZ around the testicles caused the germ cells responsible for sperm production to become inactive.
The team discovered that the ultrasound contraceptive was most effective when the testes were warmed to a temperature of 37°C before being blasted with the ultrasonic waves.
They also found that having two 15 minute doses two days apart gave the best results.
Commenting on the findings, Dr James Tsuruta, who led the study, said: “Unlike humans, rats remain fertile even with extremely low sperm counts.
“However, our non-invasive ultrasound treatment reduced sperm reserves in rats far below levels normally seen in fertile men.
“Further studies are required to determine how long the contraceptive effect lasts and if it is safe to use multiple times.”
This is not the first time ultrasound has been coined as being a contraceptive method for men.
In the 1970s a number of prostate cancer patients who were waiting for surgery to remove their testicles underwent the treatment.
It was discovered then that the treatment led to a reduction in the number of germ cells in the testes but the findings were never investigated further.
The researchers behind this study wanted to build on the previous knowledge and find out if modern ultrasound technology led to similar results.
Winning a research grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation allowed them to carry out the study.
Their findings have now been published in the journal of Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology.
Writing in the publication, the researchers said: "These men [in the 1970s study] reported that the procedure was pain-free, only creating a gentle feeling of warmth.
“The non-invasive nature of ultrasound and its efficacy in reducing sperm count make therapeutic ultrasound a promising candidate for a male contraceptive.
“Our results clearly show that therapeutic ultrasound treatment depleted developing germ cells from the testis and subsequently decreased the size of sperm reserves.”
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Getting ready for cloud data-driven healthcare
As healthcare continues to recognise the value of data and digital transformation, many organisations are relying on the cloud to make their future-forward and data-centric thinking a reality. In fact, the global healthcare cloud computing market was valued at approximately $18 billion and is expected to generate around $61 billion USD by 2025.
At the forefront of these changes is the rapid adoption of cloud-based, or software-as-a-service (SaaS), applications. These apps can be used to handle patient interactions, track prescriptions, care, billing and more, and the insights derived from this important data can vastly improve operations, procurement and courses of treatment. However, before healthcare organisations can begin to dream about a true data-driven future, they have to deal with a data-driven dilemma: compliance.
Meeting regulation requirements
It’s no secret that healthcare is a highly regulated industry when it comes to data and privacy – and rightfully so. Patient records contain extremely sensitive data that, if changed or erased, could cost someone their life. This is why healthcare systems rely on legacy technologies, like Cerner and Epic EHRs, to manage patient information – the industry knows the vendors put an emphasis on making them as secure as possible.
Yet when SaaS applications are introduced and data starts being moved into them, compliance gets complicated. For example, every time a new application is introduced into an organisation, that organisation must have the vendor complete a BAA (Business Associate Agreement). This agreement essentially puts the responsibility for the safety of patients’ information — maintaining appropriate safeguards and complying with regulations — on the vendor.
However, even with these agreements in place, healthcare systems still are at risk of failing to meet compliance requirements. To comply with HIPAA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration 21 CFR Part 11 and other regulations that stipulate the need to exercise best practices to keep electronic patient data safe, healthcare organisations must maintain comprehensive audit trails – something that gets increasingly difficult when data sits in an application that resides in the vendor’s infrastructure.
Additionally, data often does not stay in the applications – instead healthcare users download, save and copy it into other business intelligence tools, creating data sprawl across the organisation and exposing patient privacy to greater risk.
With so many of these tools that are meant to spur growth and more effective care creating compliance challenges, it begs the question: how can healthcare organisations take advantage of the data they have without risking non-compliance?
Yes, healthcare organisations can adhere to regulations while also getting valuable insights from the wealth of data they have available. However, to help do this, organisations must own their data. This means data must be backed up and stored in an environment that they have control over, rather than in the SaaS vendors’ applications.
Backing up historical SaaS application data directly from an app into an organisation’s own secure cloud infrastructure, such as AWS or Microsoft Azure, makes it easier, and less costly, to maintain a digital chain of custody – or a trail of the different touchpoints of data. This not only increases the visibility and auditability of that data, but organisations can then set appropriate controls around who can access the data.
Likewise, having data from these apps located in one central, easily accessible location can decrease the number of copies floating around an organisation, reducing the surface area of exposure while also making it easier for organisations to securely pull data into business intelligence tools.
When healthcare providers have unfettered access to all their historical data, the possibilities for growth and insights are endless. For example, having ownership and ready access to authorised data can help organisations further implement and support outcome-based care. Insights enabled by this data will help inform diagnoses, prescriptions, treatment plans and more, which benefits not only the patient, but the healthcare ecosystem as a whole.
To keep optimising and improving care, healthcare systems must take advantage of new tools like SaaS applications. By backing up and owning their historical SaaS application data, they can do so while minimising the risk to patient privacy or compliance requirements. Having this ownership and access can propel healthcare organisations to be more data-driven – creating better outcomes for everyone.