Future Sex: top 10 developments in 2011 that will change sex

-World's first successful uterus transplant:
Derya Sert became the first woman to receive a womb from a deceased donor. Previous attempts using living donors have failed because surgeons weren't able to harvest as much of the tissue surrounding the organ. Doctors became convinced of the feasibility of this procedure after a study came out this year demonstrating how a transplanted uterus in sheep can produce healthy offspring while the mother is on immunosuppressive therapy.

-Vasectomy without scissors:
Sujoy Guha spent the last 30 years developing a reversible form of vasectomy, RISUG, that requires only a syringe loaded with a nontoxic polymer. Unfortunately the procedure has never been approved by the medical community because no drug company is willing to invest millions in a compound that will inevitably cost less than the syringe that delivers it. After years of testing and pushing RISUG, the procedure is on the verge of approval in India—a nation that is expected to surpass China as the world's most populous nation. Also, this year an American team was scheduled to start basic toxicology testing on RISUG, and the Gates Foundation granted $100,000 to test RISUG in fallopian tubes.

-Japan gets closer to creating a lifelike sex robot: As a nation obsessed with cutting-edge electronics, it should be no surprise that many Japanese men have turned to technology as a surrogate for human companionship. Last year the trend of men dating electronic girlfriends they carried on their phones became so popular that at least one Japanese resort town started catering to these men and their virtual lovers. This year there were at least three robotic advancements in Japan that will help give rise to realistic, sex robots. One researcher unveiled both a kiss and a hug transmission device; these machines simulate artificial forms of these human exchanges over the Internet. Another team of researchers developed a robot that can talk and mimic facial expressions as flawlessly as the animated creatures on Avatar.

-An Indonesian plant may lead to male birth control:
Indonesian researchers have been testing the chemicals of a native plant, Gandarusa, on the fertility of male mice since 1987. The chemical doesn't interfere with a male's hormones; it disarms sperm and makes them unable to penetrate the egg. Researchers have since moved on to human trials. Of the 100 couples to take the drug, none conceived a child while on the pill and the men's sperm returned to normal in less than two months. Gandarusa could hit shelves in Indonesia as early as next year.

-FDA approves the first erectile dysfunction machine:
Reflexonic announced the impending release of the first FDA-approved vibrator for men: Viberect. This device is the first physical alternative to erectile dysfunction drugs as well as the first tool for promoting ejaculation in men with spinal cord injuries. A Viberect currently requires a doctor's prescription and costs $300. Considering the one-time investment and the lack of side-effects, it will be interesting to see how competitive these machines are against ED medications. Also, expect sex toy companies to produce knock-off versions marketed as novelty items.

-Cheap and early gender tests may lead to selective abortions:
Gender tests are becoming ever easier. They are important when screening for sex-specific diseases, but some couples are using these tests for sex-selective abortions. Gender selection is just the start of a larger debate regarding genetic selection. One day soon doctors will be able to isolate and combine specific sperm and eggs that carry "ideal" genes. The inherent flaw with selecting your child's genes, or even its sex, is the delusion that parents know what will be best for their offspring in an ever-changing world.

-Gamers develop a model for an AIDS enzyme:
Pessimists have long seen the rise of video games as one of many elements rotting the minds of the young. However, innovative thinkers have discovered ways to harness the electronic skills of gamers. The Foldit computing project challenged gamers to create a 3D model of a critical AIDS enzyme that has eluded scientists for nearly a decade. Gamers solved the puzzle in three weeks. This 3D model will provide researchers with insight into the enzyme's structural strengths and weaknesses.

-Space sex isn’t stellar, at least for conception:
While NASA has yet to officially conduct experiments on human sex in space, some grounded NASA scientists analyzed the feasibility of procreation and pregnancy outside the Earth's protective atmosphere. Space pioneers will face a variety of problems when it comes to conception. Radiation bursts from cosmic rays and solar flares will bombard their genitals like swift kicks of cosmic energy to the gonads. This will boost the rates of miscarriages and infertility.

-First successful test tube sperm:
It has taken nearly a century, but scientists have finally grown mammalian sperm outside of the body. Researchers took tissue fragments from the testes of mice and soaked them in various culturing solutions in the hope that these cells would divide into sperm cells. The team ran into problems with meiosis. The key turned out to be culturing the tissue in a serum that is used to grow embryonic stem cells. The resulting sperm were then injected into egg cells and produced healthy offspring. Researchers are hopeful about using this procedure to help infertile men.

-'Viagra condoms' may help resurrect safe sex:
Many men don't use condoms or remove them during sex as the loss of sensitivity can make it difficult to maintain an erection. This blood loss can also increase the risk of the condom slipping off. To combat these issues, manufacturers tried coating the inside of condoms with a gel used to increase blood circulation. Men who tested the product reported having stronger and longer-lasting erections. Even if this innovation was primarily developed as a gimmick to sell condoms, many hope it will have the added bonus of preventing unwanted pregnancies and reducing the spread of STDs.

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  • Jane Fonda in Barbarella

To predict the future, sometimes you must look to the past. If history is any indicator, how humans satisfy their sexual desires and conceive offspring will become increasingly dependent on technology. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Technology provides hope for those suffering from infertility and sexual dysfunction, and it reduces the risk of unwanted pregnancies and diseases.

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