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Could a male contraceptive pill soon be a reality?

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Scientists have developed a contraceptive pill for men targeting sperm movement. Read about its potential success and how it works.
Could a Male Contraceptive Pill Soon be a Reality?

Scientists have made a breakthrough. A team of scientists has developed a contraceptive pill for men, which can be taken as needed before sex. There’s a long way to go before it could be ready for use – so far, it has only been tested on mice. However, the scientists believe the pill has the potential to be the first safe, effective contraceptive pill for men. Here’s how it works.

Background

Nearly half of pregnancies worldwide are unintended, according to recent research published in medical journal The Lancet. A contributing factor is the lack of available contraceptive options targeted at men – currently, only condoms and vasectomies. Efforts to design a contraceptive pill for men have historically encountered obstacles. Previous attempts have mostly been hormone-based treatments designed to reduce sperm production. They take months to be effective and have been associated in trials with mental health issues (a side effect also associated with female contraceptive pills).

How does it work?

Instead of trying to reduce sperm production, this pill targets sperm movement – simply put, it impedes their swimming ability. It does this by blocking the enzyme soluble adenylyl cyclase (or sAC, for short). In mice, this showed good contraceptive results when a pill was taken an hour before sex. The effect was strongest for three hours and gone entirely after 24. There was no sign of reduced libido or sexual function in the mice and no other notable side-effects.

Will it work for humans?

The pill will need to be tested on rabbits before it can be tested on humans. However, the researchers are optimistic about the prospects of success. They argue human reproductive systems are even more suitable than mice. That’s because in female mice there is no barrier between the vagina and uterus as there is in humans (the cervix). In mice, that means the sperm can survive long enough to fertilise after the pill wears off. However, in humans, the researchers expect the sperm could not cross the cervix and would be trapped in the vagina, where they would likely be killed when the vagina ‘re-acidifies’ shortly after sex.

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