Male contraceptive pill: one step closer

1960s was the time when the contraceptive pill for women became readily available and since then scientists have worked endlessly towards creating an equivalent for men, often referred to as the “Holy Grail” of research for many years – until now.

Male contraceptive pill: one step closer to the dream?

By Pragya Saini, Mindful Mum, 31st May 2012

According to a report published in The Telegraph, researchers at the University of Edinburgh have identified a gene essential for the production of a healthy sperm, which prevents it from maturing and thereby resulting in temporary infertility if blocked.

Another article on NHS’s website says that the gene in question, called Katnal1, controls the cells that support and provide nutrients to developing sperm, helping them to mature in the testes. Scientists believe that if this gene is blocked, it could stop mature sperm ready for fertilization being released from the testes.

Reversible

The researchers at the Centre for Reproductive Health at the university were exploring the causes of male infertility.

They chemically altered the genetic code of male mice at random to examine which turned infertile. They traced the mutations which led to infertility, ultimately leading them to Katnal1.

Dr. Lee Smith, one of the researchers at Edinburgh university, told the BBC, “If we can find a way to target this gene in the testes, we could potentially develop a non-hormonal contraceptive.”

He also added, “The important thing is that the effects of such a drug would be reversible because Katnal1 only affects sperm cells in the later stages of development, so it would not hinder the early stages of sperm production and the overall ability to produce sperm.”

Reality or pipe dream?

Though many newspapers described this research as a step closer to developing male contraceptive pill, many say that though it is theoretically possible, its practical application will take considerably longer time.

Regardless, many researchers have in fact hailed this discovery, claiming there is definitely a need for such a drug. While talking to the BBC, Dr Allan Pacey, a senior lecturer in Andrology at the University of Sheffield, said there was “certainly a need” for a non-hormonal contraceptive for men.” He added, “The key in developing a non-hormonal contraceptive for men is that the molecular target needs to be very specific for either sperm or other cells in the testicle which are involved in sperm production.”

Many experts believe that the gene described above not only provides an exciting possibility for a male contraceptive but can also be essential in answering many fertility issues among men.

How do you feel about your partner taking the male contraception pill?

Photography: Gareth1953 @ Flickr

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