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Scottish scientists have uncovered a key gene which could lead to a new form of male birth control.
Scottish scientists have uncovered a key gene essential for sperm development, which could lead to the development of a male birth control pill, according to CBS News.
"If we can find a way to target this gene in the testes, we could potentially develop a non-hormonal contraceptive," Dr. Lee Smith, a reader in genetic endocrinology at the Medical Research Council Center for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, said in a news release.
The research group stumbled upon the findings a bit on accident. According to the BBC, the group was initially studying infertility in men.
The statement goes on to explain that if scientists can regulate the Katnal1 gene in the testes, they could prevent sperm from maturing completely, making them ineffective, without changing hormone levels.
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The research team explained the birth control would work by using a re-engineered virus carrying a mutated form of the gene could be injected into the testes to render a man permanently sterile, essentially creating a "genetic vasectomy," according to US News. In the end, they want to make the procedure reversible.
US News also noted several other non-hormonal treatments are available to men. Currently in India, several men have had a RISUG treatment—a 15-minute procedure in which a gel is injected into the vas deferens, making it impossible for sperm to exit the penis. The procedure is reversible and effective for about 10 years.
CBS also reported another group of scientists at the University of North Carolina used high-frequency ultrasound to zap sperm counts in rats, and suggested it might be effective in humans.
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