A new experimental approach to male birth control has been discovered that could revolutionize contraception for men. A paper published in the journal ‘Nature Communications’ on February 14, 2023, presents a promising approach that could offer men fast-acting and temporary contraception. The approach tested by researchers involves a compound that blocks an enzyme that sperm need to swim.
The study was conducted on mice, and the compound immobilized the sperm with no significant side effects observed. The researchers responsible for the study believe this could pave the way for developing a contraceptive pill for men. Although the research was conducted on mice, it is promising, and the next step would be to test it on humans. If successful, it could provide men with a new method of contraception, which could offer them more options and control over their reproductive health.
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According to Jochen Buck, a pharmacologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and co-author of the paper, the research team found the on-switch that turns sperm on to move and developed a compound that inhibits it. The potential value of the compound as a male contraceptive was discovered by chance. A graduate student at Buck’s lab wanted to test it in mice as a possible treatment for an eye disorder. However, she was scared of mice and asked another post-doc, Melanie Balbach, for help. Balbach agreed, provided she could also check what happened to the male mice’s sperm since she knew the drug acts on an enzyme related to male fertility. Balbach presented the results to Buck and lab co-director Lonny Levin at a lab meeting the following week, and they were stunned by the findings. After the male mice were injected with the compound, their sperm did not move.
The drug was found to be fast-acting and temporary, staying in the system for several hours. It took about fifteen minutes to have an effect, and it was 100% effective at preventing pregnancies within 2.5 hours after getting the drug. Within 3.5 hours, it was 91% effective. During those hours, the male and female mice in the study had plenty of sex. If the same results can be achieved in humans, the drug could be used as an on-demand contraceptive. Buck believes that after half an hour, the sperm of men who take the drug will not move, and a day or two later, they will be back to normal.
However, it is important to note that this new drug is still experimental and has not been tested on humans yet. Developing and approving a new drug is a lengthy process involving extensive clinical trials to ensure safety and efficacy. Thus, it may still be several years before this new male contraceptive pill becomes widely available. However, if this new pill proves to be as effective in humans as it was in mice, it could provide men with a new and effective form of contraception. With the demand for male contraceptives on the rise and more funding being allocated to research in this area, a new era of male contraception may be on the horizon.