Scientific findings reported in the October issue of Science have shown that researchers have found a way to reduce fertility in male mice, which may eventually lead to the first birth control for men.
Two experiments were conducted that altered the mice’s production of sperm. In the first experiment, researches genetically altered the mice so that their reproductive cells didn’t express certain genes that aid in the formation and development of their sperm. The sperm therefore did not form properly and were ultimately unable to fertilize eggs, rendering the mice infertile permanently.
The other tactic that researchers tried involved blocking a protein in the development of the sperm. They did this by feeding the mice cyclosporine A and tacrolimus, drugs which block the production of calcineurin in the mice’s sperm. Without the calcineurin, the sperm is not able to develop fully and ends up with a rigid tail, making it harder for the sperm to swim and ultimately unable to penetrate the egg membrane to fertilize the female’s eggs. The mice became essentially infertile, however when they were taken off the drug they returned to their normal fertility rates.
For humans, this effect could be recreated through drugs already on the market that alter the same protein.
While it has not yet been proven if the drug will work on humans, scientists are hopeful that it will one day prove to be an effective option for male birth control, as opposed to the existing option of a vasectomy. An effective birth control for men that is non-permanent and non-surgical is a highly sought after concept, and if scientists can replicate the same results they had with lab mice with humans, it may be on the market sooner rather than later.
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