A breakthrough in the world of contraceptives
-Written by Rahul Mody
Look no further ladies and gentlemen! The age old debate for a male counterpart for birth control may finally come to an end. Weill Cornell Medicine investigators have developed an experimental contraceptive drug that apparently stops sperm motility. Although currently in preclinical model, this drug has been said to prevent pregnancies. And through this article, we’re going to discuss everything you need to know about this incredible breakthrough.
To date, the only available forms of male contraceptive have been either condoms or vasectomies. Research on coming up with a new and more effective male contraceptive had more or less come to a halt. And we can owe this majorly to the fact that society only views pregnancy as a “women’s ordeal”. As a matter of fact, even this current discovery was simply by chance. Dr. Jochen Buck and Dr. Lonny Levin, Co-senior authors of the study, set out on a challenge to simply isolate soluble adenylyl cyclase (sAC) (an important cellular signalling protein that had long been unattainable to biochemists). Upon successfully isolating the sAC, further experimentation with mice showed that a lack of sAC made the mice infertile. Further, Dr. Melanie Balbach conducted some more research with some drugs that inactivate sAC and found that the mice produce sperm that can no longer propel themselves forward.
The sAC inhibitor drug in discussion is referred to as TDI-11861. And a new study by Nature Communications demonstrated that a single dose of this drug can immobilise mice sperm for up
to two and a half hours. Following which, some sperm regain back their motility and after about 24 hours, nearly all sperms were back to normal movement. When mice treated with TDI-11861 were paired with female, they demonstrated normal mating behavior. The only difference? After about 52 mating attempts, the females were still not impregnated! According to Dr. Balbach, the inhibitor takes approximately thirty minutes to an hour to be effective compared to other tested
contraceptives that took weeks to show any effect.
The Buck/Levin lab’s collaboration with TDI was fostered and nurtured by Weill Cornell Medicine Enterprise Innovation. The team is now working on making sAC inhibitors more suited for human use. The next step is to conduct experiments in different pre clinical models that will lay the groundwork for human clinical trials. Tests have already been conducted on human sperm in the laboratory and the inhibitor is said to have the same effectiveness as it showed with mice.
We may be looking at a very strong solution to this age old problem very soon. There has always been a pressing need for an effective and reversible contraceptive for men. If it does ultimately work, men could very well make day-to-day decisions related to fertility, a decision that was largely left up to women till now. We might be near to a future where a man can walk into a pharmacy and request for a “male pill”. The advances to this industry are endless and this truly is a step into the right direction.