POP­PING PILLS AND PLUG­GING THE PLUMB­ING

Focus-Science and Technology - - IN FOCUS | HEALTH -

Here are some al­ter­na­tive ideas for male con­tra­cep­tion com­ing down the pipe­line…

HER­BAL REME­DIES

Gen­darussa (also known as gan­darusa) is a com­pound from the Chi­nese Jus­ti­cia gen­darussa plant, which is thought to dis­rupt fertilisation. It’s cur­rently be­ing tested in small tri­als in In­done­sia to see whether it is safe and ef­fec­tive. An­other po­ten­tial con­tra­cep­tive is pris­timerin, which comes from an an­cient medic­i­nal herb known as the thun­der god vine.

VAS-OCCLUSION

Vas- occlusion tech­niques phys­i­cally block sperm from mov­ing along the vas def­er­ens – the tube that trans­ports them from the testes to the pe­nis – by us­ing in­jectable poly­mers that can be re­versed at a later date by in­ject­ing a ‘dis­solver’ chem­i­cal or us­ing ul­tra­sound. The best-known of these tech­niques is called Vasal­gel, which has been suc­cess­fully tested in mon­keys and is ex­pected to move for­ward into clin­i­cal tri­als shortly.

CLEAN SHEETS PILL

An ex­per­i­men­tal drug that paral­y­ses the mus­cles which squeeze sperm out of the vas def­er­ens, re­sult­ing in a ‘dry’ or­gasm. It’s be­ing de­vel­oped by Nnae­meka Amobi, for­merly a re­searcher at King’s Col­lege Lon­don, but has stalled due to lack of fund­ing.

JQ1

JQ1 was ini­tially de­vel­oped as a drug that specif­i­cally tar­gets a faulty mol­e­cule that drives a rare type of cancer called NUT mid­line car­ci­noma. But it also stops sperm from de­vel­op­ing prop­erly by block­ing a mol­e­cule that is es­sen­tial for pack­ag­ing up DNA in­side sperm.

RETINOIC ACID

Sperm pro­duc­tion de­pends on a steady sup­ply of retinoic acid, a chem­i­cal pro­duced when vi­ta­min A is bro­ken down in the body. Con­trol­ling how retinoic acid is pro­duced and used in the testes, per­haps by block­ing the en­zymes that break down vi­ta­min A, could lead to new ideas for male con­tra­cep­tives.

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