Skooter reporting 05/29/12
Researchers in Edinburgh identified a gene critical for the production of healthy sperm and therefore it may be possible to develop a new male contraceptive pill. A fertility expert said there was a “certainly a need” for such a drug.
Experiments in mice found that the gene, Katnal1, was important for the final stages of making sperm. A research team at the Center for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh were looking into the causes of male infertility. What they did they randomly modified the genetic code of mice which became infertile. They then traced the mutations which led to infertility, and eventually led them to Katnal1.
Protein is important in cells which helps in the development of sperm. Without the protein, sperm do not fully form, and the body disposes of them.
Scientists look forward to be able to conduct a similar trick in humans to stop sperm developing, without causing lasting damage.
Dr. Lee Smith, one of the researchers said if they can find a way to target this gene in the testes, we could possibly develop a non-hormonal contraceptive. The important thing to take into account is that the effects of such a drug would be reversible because Katnal1 only affects sperm cells in the later stages of development, so it would not hold back the early stages of sperm production and the overall ability to manufacture sperm.
Dr. Smith said it would be somewhat not easy to do as the protein resides inside cells, but, he said there was probability to find something else that protein worked with, which might be an easier target.
As of the present, contraception in men is largely down to condoms or a vasectomy.