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.

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