At last, a male pill is coming
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.