Sperm block could lead to birth control pill for men

Drugs that block two proteins the control sperm transport could lead to complete male infertility, without nasty side effects. If successful, researchers hope a male contraceptive pill could be available within ten years. (Credit: Shutterstock)

A new way to block the transportation of sperm during ejaculation may lead to a contraceptive for men.

Scientists say that complete male infertility could be achieved by blocking two proteins found on the smooth muscle cells that trigger the transport of sperm.

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As reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers demonstrated that the absence of two proteins in mouse models, α1A-adrenoceptor and P2X1-purinoceptor, which mediate sperm transport, caused infertility, without effects on long-term sexual behavior or function.

The finding could be applied to the potential development of a contraceptive pill for men, researchers say.

“Previous strategies have focused on hormonal targets or mechanisms that produce dysfunctional sperm incapable of fertilization, but they often interfere with male sexual activity and cause long term irreversible effects on fertility,” says Sab Ventura of the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Infertility without side effects

“We’ve shown that simultaneously disrupting the two proteins that control the transport of sperm during ejaculation causes complete male infertility, but without affecting the long-term viability of sperm or the sexual or general health of males. The sperm is effectively there but the muscle is just not receiving the chemical message to move it.

There is already a drug that targets one of the two proteins, but researchers will have to find a chemical and develop a drug to block the second one.

“This suggests a therapeutic target for male contraception,” Ventura says. “The next step is to look at developing an oral male contraceptive drug, which is effective, safe, and readily reversible.”

If successful, researchers hope a male contraceptive pill could be available within ten years.

Researchers from University of Melbourne and the University of Leicester collaborated on the study.

Source: Monash University