News Monday May 28, 2012

New study provides hope for male contraceptive

After years of failed attempts, scientists may have finally found a way to create the long-awaited “male contraceptive pill”.

A study undertaken by researchers in Edinburgh showed that a gene identified as Katnal1 is key in the production of healthy sperm, meaning that if it could be altered with daily medication, it would provide a reversible form of male oral contraceptive.

Dr. Lee Smith, who worked on the project said: "If we can find a way to target this gene in the testes, we could potentially develop a non-hormonal contraceptive. 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.”

Researchers are not yet able to explain exactly how this would be achieved, but believe that there is great potential in this discovery, as previous attempts at creating a male contraceptive have failed due to extensive side effects.

Currently the only forms of male contraceptives are condoms or vasectomies, and Dr Allan Pacey, from the University of Sheffield said that there was a definite need for a male contraceptive but that developing it has proved a problem in the past.

He said: "The gene described by the research group in Edinburgh sounds like an exciting new possible target for a new male contraceptive, but it may also shed light on why some men are sub-fertile and why their sperm does not work properly."

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