For decades, scientists have been trying to develop an effective male oral contraceptive that's effective, long-lasting, and reversible —similar to the birth control pill for women— but to no avail.
New preliminary research says that birth control options for males may soon expand beyond condoms and vasectomy as scientists have developed a non-hormonal contraceptive pill for men, one that kept lab mice sterile for four to six weeks. When the treatments were stopped, the mice returned to normal levels of virility with seemingly no side effects at all. Early human trials of the pill are expected to begin by the end of this year.
So…How does it work?
The proposed contraceptive is the product of researchers at the University of Minnesota, who say that the pill reportedly works by targeting the users RAR-a-gene (retinoic acid receptor), which reduces the ability to produce vitamin A levels necessary for fertility while causing little to no off-target effects elsewhere.
“Targeting the male sex hormone leads to a lot of side effects such as weight gain, depression, and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases,” says Ph.D. candidate Abdullah al Noman, a graduate student and researcher on the project. “Men are less willing to take a birth control pill that has significant side effects. That’s why we are targeting a non-hormonal pathway to developing a male birth control pill,” he adds.
The UMN researchers are aware that their compound is not guaranteed to work in humans." Because it can be difficult to predict if a compound that looks good in animal studies will also pan out in human trials, we’re currently exploring other compounds, as well," researcher Gunda Georg, the department head of medicinal chemistry at the University of Minnesota said in a recent statement.