A gene vital for a final stage of sperm genesis has been recently discovered by the researchers at the Centre for Reproductive Health, University of Edinburgh. This discovery might lead to development of a male contraceptive, thus excluding women from the privilege of female birth control pills.
This discovery, which might change our perspective on contraceptives, was actually made accidently. The scientists were researching possible causes of male infertility in mice. They altered the genetic code of the animal to see which one affected their reproduction system. They discovered that those who had a dysfunctional gene Katnal1 could not reproduce. Results were published in May issue of PLoS Genetics scientific magazine.
A contraceptive that blocks functions of gene Katnal1 has a number of significant advantages. In particular, such contraceptive pill would not be hormonal in contrast to those that already exist. And according to the conducted polls members of the stronger sex are very cautious of anything that might even slightly affect their hormone levels. Leading researcher of the project, Dr Lee B.Smith, described how this treatment will work.
"All the data evidence that we have suggests it is not involved in the genetic pathway. Sperm production is controlled by hormones and specific genes that are required for the development and Katnal1 works in the genetic pathway, rather than hormonal pathway."
In addition, with this new treatment men who have a regular partner can avoid using condoms without losing control over ability to reproduce. As effects of the pill would be completely reversible, unlike such treatments as vasectomy – a radical procedure for men that prevents the release of sperm when a man ejaculates
Finally, one should keep in mind that the main goal of this research was finding a treatment for male infertility and scientists are planning on continuing their work in this field. Although as the Centre for Reproductive Health states, this would probably take more time than producing a male contraceptive pill.
"It is technically easier to take one gene that goes wrong in all man and make a contraceptive, rather than make one of the genes that is causing male infertility better. We know of 5 to 10 thousand genes that are very important for fertility. But the approach we are using with mice in identifying new genes that are involved in this process fits quite nicely with the data coming out from the new studies in the personalized medicine field."
And still development of a male contraceptive pill is a much more existing innovation than a cure for infertility. Scientists are sure that their invention will be a huge success.