December 3, 2013
New Research Could Lead To Men’s Birth Control Pill In Ten Years Or Less
Women may soon be off the hook with having to remember to take birth control following the introduction of a new male contraceptive reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Scientists found that complete male infertility could be achieved by blocking two proteins found on the smooth muscle cells that trigger the transport of sperm. They demonstrated that the absence of two proteins in mouse models caused infertility without long-term effects on sexual behavior or function. The team believes the knowledge could be applied to the development of a contraceptive pill for men.
“Previous strategies have focused on hormonal targets or mechanisms that produce dysfunctional sperm incapable of fertilization, but they often interfere with male sexual activity and cause long term irreversible effects on fertility,” said Dr Sab Ventura of the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
He said the team was able to show how simultaneously disrupting the two proteins, α1A-adrenoceptor and P2X1-purinoceptor, could control the transport of sperm during ejaculation, causing complete male infertility without affecting long-term viability of sperm or the sexual or general health of males.
“The sperm is effectively there but the muscle is just not receiving the chemical message to move it,” Ventura explained.
He added there was already a drug that targets one of the two proteins, but they would have to find a chemical and develop a drug to block the second one.
“This suggests a therapeutic target for male contraception. The next step is to look at developing an oral male contraceptive drug, which is effective, safe, and readily reversible,” Ventura said.
If the next step in the research is successful, then they believe a male contraceptive pill could be available within ten years.
Ventura and colleagues are not the only scientists trying to open the door up for male contraceptives. Last year, researchers reported that a small molecule called JQI was able to produce infertility without a decrease of sex drive. This team also believes these molecules could be packaged in pill form, allowing JQI to move through the blood-testis barrier without major obstacles.
“These findings suggest that a reversible, oral male contraceptive may be possible,” Dr. James E. Bradner, a researcher at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, said in a statement at the time of the study. “While we will be conducting more research to see if we can build on our current findings, JQ1 shows initial promise as a lead compound for male contraception.”