At last, a male pill is com­ing

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Opinion - SUE DUN­LEVY

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

Sci­en­tists claim the hor­mone­free pill is set to by­pass side-ef­fects such as in­fer­til­ity, birth de­fects and li­bido that have so far hin­dered the search for a male con­tra­cep­tive.

In fact, says Dr Sab Ven­tura from Monash Univer­sity’s In­sti­tute of Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Sciences, a sell­ing point is that the new drug may ac­tu­ally in­crease male li­bido.

If the next stage of drug devel­op­ment is suc­cess­ful, tri­als could be­gin and a male pill could be on the mar­ket within 5-10 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 longterm ir­re­versible ef­fects on fer­til­ity.

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

Their pre­vi­ous re­search has shown that you can pro­duce in­fer­til­ity in mice 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 that tar­gets one of the two pro­teins linked to the move­ment of sperm.

Dr Ven­tura said the $US150,000 ($190,000) grant from the Male Con­tra­cep­tive Ini­tia­tive in the US would al­low him to work on other chem­i­cals to block the sec­ond pro­tein.

He be­lieves men will want to use a male con­tra­cep­tive pill. “There is a lot of so­cial science re­search that shows men are happy to take con­trol of con­tra­cep­tion,” he said.

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