The Next Big Thing

Let's face it: We spend an awful lot of our time waiting. Waiting in bathroom lines. Waiting for that hot Kenneth Cole leather clutch to go on sale at the end of the season. Waiting for a decent Dane Cook movie.

Usually, our patience pays off, the forever unfunny Mr. Cook notwithstanding. But when it comes to some of those promising medical breakthroughs we've been hearing about for the past decade -- uh, birth control for men, anyone? -- we have to wonder: Are we ever gonna see this stuff?

To get some answers, we dished with researchers and other experts to find out what's really going on behind lab doors -- and more important, when we might be able to see some payoff.

Male Birth Control

Here's the scoop: Our ultimate fantasy is to see him pregnant and squeezing out a pumpkin-headed 10-pounder. But for now, we'll settle for shrugging off the burden of daily Pill popping.

European pharmaceutical companies have already created a chemical that suppresses the hormone responsible for sperm production. When frisky male rats were given the drug, they started shooting blanks; when they stopped nibbling their contraceptive-laced cheese, sperm production came back.

More good news: EU researchers have developed a kind of temporary vasectomy. Instead of snipping the tubes that carry sperm to the penis, a doctor implants a clip that pinches them shut. "Think of it as an IUD for men," says Dr. Manny Alvarez, adjunct professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the New York University School of Medicine.

ETA: Five years for the Male Pill. Scientists are working on a human formula, which will go through trials before being submitted for FDA approval. As for the clip in the U.S., look for it in one year: It's currently in human trials to make sure sperm flow returns after the clip is removed.

HIV Vaccine

Here's the scoop: Scientists have been trying to find a cure for HIV/AIDS for more than 25 years, but it's tricky: "Every time the virus is transmitted, it undergoes small changes," says Patricia Fast, chief medical officer at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI). This means that no two people are infected with exactly the same strain of HIV, making it nearly impossible to create a universal antidote.

But what if we could prevent people from getting infected altogether? That's the goal of more than 30 human trials being conducted around the world by universities, private labs, governments, and the IAVI.

Because it's not safe to use a vaccine made from a killed or weakened strain of HIV (as scientists do with the flu virus), "study participants are injected with a small, basic component of the virus that is present in every strain," Fast says. That way, your body can learn how to fight it off without your getting sick. Then, if you were exposed to the real thing, your immune system would recognize the virus and knock the crap out of it.

ETA: Unclear. Once a vaccine enters late-stage testing, it takes about five years to determine whether it's likely to succeed. After that, more testing is required before it can be licensed for global use.

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