An experimental contraceptive medication candidate has been developed by Weill Cornell Medical researchers in the US that “temporary freezes sperm in their tracks and prevents births in preclinical mice.” This suggests that, similar to how the pill exists for women, a new type of contraceptive for males, now available through physical barriers (condoms) and surgical methods (vasectomy), could be developed.

The discovery may be a “game-changer” for contraceptives, according to Weill Cornell Medicine’s Drs. Jochen Buck and Lonny Levin, professors of pharmacology. They stated in the study’s abstract, which was published on February 14 in Nature Communications under the title “On-demand male contraception via acute inhibition of soluble adenylyl cyclase,” that “Nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended; thus, existing family planning options are inadequate.”

In essence, the goal of this study was to demonstrate a proof-of-concept and determine whether the concept of such a pill could actually be implemented. Here, it was intended to work on reducing the mobility or movement of sperms or the male gamete, which, during human reproduction, fertilises the female gamete or egg.

Working on a single protein is what led to the study, according to the Weill Cornell Medical Newsroom. According to the statement, “Dr. Levin challenged Dr. Buck to isolate soluble adenylyl cyclase (sAC), an essential physiological signalling molecule that had long baffled biochemists. Subsequently, the two started functioning as a team.

They discovered that mice with sAC deficiency due to genetic engineering are sterile. In their study, Dr. Melanie Balbach, a postdoctoral associate, revealed in 2018 that giving mice sAC-inactivating medication results in sperm that cannot proliferate. Since men without the gene expressing sAC are infertile but otherwise healthy, sAC inhibition was therefore considered as a potential safe contraceptive approach.

Mice sperm can be rendered inert for up to two and a half hours by a single dosage of the sAC inhibitor TDI-11861, and effects last in the female reproductive system even after mating. Some sperm start to restore motility after three hours, and by 24 hours almost all of them have.

“Our inhibitor works within 30 minutes to an hour,” Dr Balbach said. “Every other experimental hormonal or nonhormonal male contraceptive takes weeks to bring sperm count down or render them unable to fertilize eggs.”

Women have traditionally been the primary target of contraception. The oral contraceptive pill received release approval in 1960. The pill had a lot of drawbacks, including frequent side effects like an increased risk of blood clots and possibly cancer, according to some studies, but it also had a lot of advantages. It gave women more control over having children.

The progestin and oestrogen hormones were controlled by the pill in order to stop sperm from fertilising the egg. According to Christina Wang, a researcher on contraceptives in the US, biology may be the reason why the same has not occurred for guys. Men create significantly more sperm than women do each month, who only produce one egg. Thus, creating a method is more difficult.

Studies have occasionally been stopped after discovering even very minor side effects, such as mood swings or pimples in a 2016 research, even though women have experienced these over the years. In contrast to when women’s contraception was being developed in Western nations in the middle of the 20th century, however, there have been changes in conventions around what is now considered appropriate in such trials.

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