The ‘pill’ has been around for decades now. But it is birth control medication for women. Men meanwhile have always had to rely on more physical things such as condoms.
However scientists in Australia believe that they are closer than ever to developing a contraceptive pill for men. It apparently involves preventing the male sperm from swimming.
While this is possibly good news, Australian researchers at Monash University in Melbourne believe that the same research may also give better clues as to why some men suffer the problem of infertility; something until recently that was not recognised as important enough. The main focus over the years has been on female infertility.
The research involving mice related to engineering a mutation in one of the mice’s genes. This particular gene is important in releasing a protein fuel (axoneme) to the tail of the sperm.
Scientists found that by altering the amount of axoneme delivered it shortened the length of the sperm tail by as much as 17%. This in turn affects sperm production, a major factor in male infertility.
“They all behaved normally and there were no pups born after six weeks. All of the males carrying this mutation were sterile,” Professor O’Bryan, leader of the research team told reporters.
She added: “The challenge with developing the male pill isn’t rendering the sperm infertile, but turning them back on again.”
What is interesting about this research is that the gene in question – RABL2 – is also found in many organs of the body including brain, liver and kidneys. As such, scientists believe that they can develop treatment which targets only male’s testes.
How far away treatment will be for both male infertility and contraception is not known. It is likely however that a male contraceptive pill could be here within a few years rather than decades. The same may not be the case for infertility.