Groundbreaking: Male Contraceptive Pill Found 99% Effective In Mice, Human Trial To Begin Soon
A team of scientists have successfully developed an oral non-hormonal male contraceptive that is 99 percent effective in mice without causing side effects, and could begin human trials by the end of this year.
The breakthrough medication mark a key step towards expanding birth control options — as well as responsibilities — for men and bring balance to the contraceptive burden on women, with far fewer options available to men.
Presenting their findings at the spring meeting of American Chemical Society on Wednesday, scientists will announce the creation of a new non-hormonal male contraceptive pill that effectively prevents pregnancy in mice without obvious side-effects.
While women can take several pills or use patches or intrauterine devices, men only have access to single-use condoms which are prone to failure and largely irreversible vasectomies.
Vasectomies are surgical procedures which can potentially be reversed, but are generally considered a permanent form of male sterilisation. Vasectomy reversal surgery is expensive and not always successful.
“Multiple studies showed that men are interested in sharing the responsibility of birth control with their partners,” he said — but until now, there have been only two effective options available: condoms or vasectomies.
The female pill uses hormones to disrupt the menstrual cycle, and historic efforts to develop a male equivalent targeted the male sex hormone testosterone.
The problem with this approach, however, was that it caused side effects such as weight gain, depression and increased levels of a cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein, which increases heart disease risks.
The female pill also carries side effects, including blood-clotting risks — but since women face becoming pregnant in the absence of contraception, the risk calculation differs.
There are several compounds undergoing clinical trials but they target the male sex hormone testosterone, which could also cause weight gain, depression and other side-effects in men as well.
To develop a non-hormonal drug, Noman, who works in the lab of Professor Gunda Georg, targeted a protein called “retinoic acid receptor (RAR) alpha.”
Inside the body, vitamin A is converted into different forms, including retinoic acid, which plays important roles in cell growth, sperm formation, and embryo development.
Retinoic acid needs to interact with RAR-alpha to perform these functions, and lab experiments have shown mice without the gene that creates RAR-alpha are sterile.
When administered orally to male mice for four weeks, the developed chemical called YCT529 drastically reduced sperm counts and was 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, without any observed adverse events.
The team is working to to start human trials by the third or fourth quarter of 2022.