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Scientists a step closer to male birth control pill

The effects of the birth control compound for use by men wear off within a few hours, after which the sperm begin to regain their ability to swim.

The effects of the birth control compound for use by men wear off within a few hours, after which the sperm begin to regain their ability to swim.

Walking into a pharmacy as a man and asking for the ‘male pill’ is getting closer, due to the constant advances in science in relation to the first male contraceptive. Developed by scientists at Cornell University, in the United States, a birth control pill for use by men is still in an experimental phase, despite the fact that it has already been shown to stop sperm movement, albeit only temporarily, in a priliminary trial with mice.

More specifically, for barely three hours at the most, according to the first results published in this week’s issue of Nature Communications. The research, supported by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), identifies a possible non-hormonal contraceptive that could be taken shortly before sexual activity to temporarily inhibit fertility, the capacity of which would be recovered the next day.

Male birth control has not been tested on humans

However, the safety of this new male contraceptive drug has not yet been tested in humans and neither have its possible side effects. Today, condoms, which have existed for 2,000 years, and vasectomies, have been the only real options for men.

“The discovery could be a ‘game-changer’ for contraception,” said study co-senior authors Dr Jochen Buck and Dr Lanny Levin, professors of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medicine. The secret is in a protein called soluble adenylyl cyclase (sAC). In the experiments, the male mouse exhibited normal mating behavior with the females, but failed to fertilize them, despite 52 different attempts.

24 hours later, the spermatozoa recover normal movement

Contraceptive efficacy was 100% during the first two hours, and 91% after a third hour. In contrast, male mice treated with an inactive control substance fertilized almost a third of their partners. Despite this, the effect of the compound disappears three hours later, when the spermatozoa begin to recover their motility, or ability to swim.

After 24 hours, almost all the spermatozoa have recovered normal movement. Likewise, no side effects were recorded in either males or females from the compound which was administered continuously for six weeks. “Our inhibitor works within 30 minutes to an hour,” says Dr. Balbach.

The speed of the contrceptives effects can be a major advantage

In addition, he added, citing other forms of male contraception under investigation, that all other experimental hormonal or non-hormonal male contraceptives take weeks to “reduce” sperm counts or incapacitate them to “fertilize” eggs.

This could be a major advantage, as interested men could take it only when they wanted and as often as they wanted so they could make day-to-day decisions about their fertility. The researched was accomplished in collaboration with the Tri-Institutional Therapeutic Discovery Institute (TDI), an organization that works with Cornell University, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the Rockefeller University to accelerate early-stage drug discovery.