After successful tests on mice, scientists in the US say they have developed a contraceptive pill for males that’s 99% effective in preventing pregnancy and doesn’t cause side effects. The researchers say that they hope to start human trials by the end of the year.
At the moment, there are many options for women to prevent pregnancy. However, there are only two effective options for men: condoms and vasectomies.
Scientists have been working on developing male contraceptives for some time. The findings of this study, which were revealed at the American Chemical Society’s spring meeting, are a key step forward in providing men with a long-lasting, reversible alternative.
The researchers say that this medication could bring balance by providing men with another option for contraception and could relieve the burden of birth control that’s currently on women.
Md Abdullah Al Noman, a graduate student who works in the lab of Professor Gunda Georg at the University of Minnesota, presented the work at the meeting.
He said, “Scientists have been trying for decades to develop an effective male oral contraceptive, but there are still no approved pills on the market”. “We wanted to develop a non-hormonal male contraceptive to avoid these side effects.”
How does the male birth control drug work?
Most of the male birth control pills in clinical trials are hormonal and target the male sex hormone, testosterone. This can lead to side effects like depression, weight gain, reduced sex drive, and increased low-density lipoprotein (known as LDL) cholesterol levels.
The researchers in this study developed a non-hormonal drug by targeting a protein called retinoic acid receptor (RAR) alpha.
Retinoic acid plays a key role in sperm formation, but it needs to interact with RAR-alpha to perform this function. The researchers found that knocking out the RAR-α gene in male mice makes them sterile, without any notable side effects.
When given to mice orally, the drug reduced their sperm count and was 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. They become fertile again 4 to 6 weeks after they stopped receiving it.