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An experimental male pill has shown promise in pre-clinical mice studies, suggesting an on-demand male contraceptive could be a real possibility. The inhibitory effects of the non-hormonal compounds may stun sperm within 30 minutes to an hour and wear off after three hours, experts explained. Because the medication does not involve hormones, researchers are confident it won’t cause any male hormone deficiency side effects.
The discovery could be a “game changer” for contraception according to the study’s co-senior authors Dr Jochen Buck and Dr Lonny Levin, both professors of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medicine.
To date, the only contraceptive measures available to men are condoms and vasectomies, which have existed for about 2,000 years.
One of the major reasons male oral contraceptives stalled is because men must clear a much higher bar for safety and side effects, according to Doctor Levin.
The expert noted that because men don’t bear the risks associated with carrying a pregnancy the field assumes they will have a low tolerance for potential contraceptive side effects.
The findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, suggest the male contraceptive may be more effective than women’s oral birth control medication.
In the early stages of their research scientists found a way to isolate an important cellular signalling protein that had long eluded biochemists.
Dr Buck and Dr Levin then shifted their research focus to studying soluble adenylyl cyclase (sAC) and merged their laboratory.
They later found that mice genetically engineered to lack sAC became infertile.
A postdoctoral associate in their laboratory, Doctor Melanie Balbach, made an important discovery while working on sAC inhibitors as a possible treatment for eye conditions.
She found that mice that were given a drug that inactivates sAC produce sperm that cannot propel themselves forward.
This discovery, coupled with previous reports that men who lack the gene encoding sAC were infertile but otherwise healthy, reassured the team that sAC inhibition might be a safe contraceptive option for men.
Subsequent studies found that a single dose of sAC inhibitor could immobilise the sperm of mice for up to two-and-a- half hours.
Though there were no pregnancies recorded between the rodents the animals’ sexual functioning remained normal.
What’s more, the effects persisted in the female reproductive tract after mating.
After three hours, some sperm regain motility and by 24 hours, nearly all sperm have recovered normal movement.
Doctor Balbach noted: “Our inhibitory works within 30 minutes to an hour.
“Sperm recovered from female mice remained incapacitated. There were no side effects.
“The compound wore off three hours later, and males recovered their fertility.”
The expert added: “Every other experimental hormonal and non-hormonal male contraceptive takes weeks to bring sperm count down or render them unable to fertilise eggs.”
Though the results are promising, much more research is planned and needed before the drug will be tested on people.
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