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Researchers find compound that makes male mice reversibly infertile - and could spell good news for humans
Ever dreamed of a male birth control pill, a magical drug that would help relieve women from the responsibility of contraceptive pills, and help relieve men of the general unpleasantness of condom use?
Good news: scientists say they're one step closer to creating a pill that could make theoretically make men reversibly infertile, without giving them hormones or affecting their sex drive, reports ScienceDaily.com.
The study, published in the Cell science journal, found that a small molecule known as JQ1 made mice reversibly infertile by targeting a protein that is known as BRDT. JQ1 inhibits the production of BRDT, and the mice began producing fewer, weaker sperm. Once the mice went off the drug, they were as fertile as ever.
"This compound produces a rapid and reversible decrease in sperm count and motility with profound effects on fertility," lead study author James Bradner of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute told ScienceDaily.
Read more from GlobalPost: Sperm gene discovery could lead to male birth control
Clinical trials still need to take place before we can even begin thinking about using this wonder-drug on people, but it's an encouraging step.
Even better news: this latest discovery isn't the only promising lead on a male contraceptive pill. In May, GlobalPost reported via CBS and the BBC that Scottish scientists have isolated a gene needed for sperm development—a development that could also lead to a drug that rendered sperm ineffective without messing about with men's testosterone levels.
Why don't we have a male birth control pill yet, anyway? What gives?
According to LiveScience.com, it's partially because male sperm is a much "higher production system" than the female egg - males can produce a remarkable 1,000 sperm a second, while females only produce one egg a month.
Further, clinical trials for a drug people would likely have to take every day must by necessity be exhaustive - a high hurdle to jump for a new drug, says Scientific American.
And then, there's the testosterone problem - which the JQ1 discovery may solve. Fiddling with male testosterone levels does diminish sperm count, but it can also affect sex drive and have other unpleasant side effects (as women who must take female contraceptive pills containing estrogen can tell you from the other side of the aisle)—and it doesn't always work.
As about half of pregnancies in the USA are unplanned, according to this Guttmacher Institute study, a contraceptive pill that works for both genders could have remarkable positive effects on society—though Trojan and Durex may be feeling a smidgen worried.