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Ear to the Ground

Male Pill May Be Within Reach

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Posted on May 25, 2012
rbrwr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Researchers investigating the cause of male infertility think they’ve spotted a means to male contraception. A group at the University of Edinburgh has identified a gene essential to late-stage sperm production. Developing a drug that turns off that gene or interrupts its functioning could lead to temporary infertility in men without tampering with hormones.

Developing a non-hormonal contraceptive for men has eluded researchers for years. Dr. Allan Pacey, an infertility scholar at the University of Sheffield, said: “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.

“If they are not, then such a contraceptive could have unwanted side effects on other cells and tissues in the body and may even be dangerous.”  —ARK

BBC:

[Researchers] randomly altered the genetic code of mice to see which became infertile. They then traced the mutations which led to infertility, which led them to Katnal1.

It contains the blueprints for a protein which is important in cells which support the development of sperm. Without the protein, sperm do not fully form and the body disposes of them.

Scientists hope they will be able to perform a similar trick in humans to stop sperm developing, without causing lasting damage.

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