Male pill con­ceived

Monash sci­en­tists on cusp of a break­through

Herald Sun - - NEWS - SUE DUN­LEVY sue.dun­

THE quest for a male con­tra­cep­tive pill is back in busi­ness thanks to new fund­ing for a team of Aussie sci­en­tists on the cusp of de­vel­op­ing a drug that blocks the trans­port of sperm.

Sci­en­tists say the hor­mone­free pill will by­pass side ef­fects such as in­fer­til­ity, birth de­fects and loss of li­bido that have hin­dered the devel­op­ment of a male con­tra­cep­tive.

Dr Sab Ven­tura, from Monash Univer­sity’s In­sti­tute of Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Sciences, says the drug may ac­tu­ally in­crease a man’s li­bido.

If the next stage of devel­op­ment is suc­cess­ful, tri­als could be­gin and a male pill might be on the mar­ket in five to 10 years.

Pre­vi­ous at­tempts to de­velop a male con­tra­cep­tive have fo­cused on hor­monal tar­gets or on mak­ing sperm in­ca­pable of fer­til­i­sa­tion. These meth­ods in­ter­fered with male sex­ual ac­tiv­ity and risked ir­re­versible ef­fects on fer­til­ity.

In­stead, Monash Univer­sity re­searchers are look­ing at chem­i­cals to switch off the brain sig­nal that causes sperm to be re­leased from the body.

Their pre­vi­ous re­search showed in­fer­til­ity in mice could be prompted by ge­net­i­cally delet­ing two pro­teins that trig­ger the trans­port of sperm — 1A-adreno­cep­tor and P2X1-purinocep­tor.

The sperm is there but the mus­cle is not re­ceiv­ing the chem­i­cal mes­sage to move it.

There is al­ready a widely avail­able drug ap­proved for long-term use that tar­gets one of the two pro­teins linked to the move­ment of sperm. Flo­max is used to treat older men hav­ing dif­fi­culty uri­nat­ing.

The re­searchers are try­ing to de­velop a drug to block the sec­ond pro­tein be­fore com­bin­ing the two in a sin­gle pill.

Dr Ven­tura said he would use a $190,000 grant from the Male Con­tra­cep­tive Ini­tia­tive to em­ploy a chemist to work on other chem­i­cals to block the sec­ond pro­tein. Re­search on mice showed block­ing these pro­teins had no ef­fect on li­bido.

“The type of drugs we’re look­ing at may im­prove sex­ual func­tion in men be­cause they di­late blood ves­sels and that is what Vi­a­gra does,” he says.

The US con­sor­tium has pro­vided grants to other male con­tra­cep­tion projects. One uses a hy­dro­gel in­jec­tion to block the move­ment of sperm.

The quest for a male con­tra­cep­tive has been dogged by lack of fund­ing for decades.

A clin­i­cal trial of an in­jectable male con­tra­cep­tive was shut down in 2011 be­cause drug com­pa­nies would not fund it be­cause the in­gre­di­ents were off patent.

Dr Ven­tura be­lieves men want a con­tra­cep­tive pill.

“There is a lot of so­cial science re­search that shows men are happy to take con­trol of con­tra­cep­tion and women are happy to let them do it but it’s very hard to say with­out one on the mar­ket,” he said.

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