Male contraceptive pill could enter human trials in just two months, inventors say, after study on mice showed it could prevent 99% of pregnancies
- A potential male birth control pill is expected to enter clinical trials as early as this summer after finding success in tests on mice
- University of Minnesota researchers found that the drug was 99% effective at preventing pregnancy
- They also found that the effects of the drug were temporary, with mice that used it able to regain fertility weeks later
- Experts believe that the world is still relatively far off from achieving a male birth control pill similar to ones available to women
A male contraceptive pill could be tested in humans in just two months, scientists say — after it showed promise in trials on mice.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota, who invented the drug, say it could enter clinical trials as early as this July.
The non-hormonal pill, medically named YCT529, blocked 99 per cent of pregnancies in mice during tests — putting it on a par with the female birth control medication.
It also did not trigger any visible side-effects, such as weight gain, and male mice were able to father pups four to six weeks after administration was stopped.
A potential male contraceptive could enter clinical trials and be tested on humans in as little as three months, University of Minnesota scientists say (file photo)
Dr Gunda Georg, a chemist at the Minneapolis-based school, revealed to Vice that the drug could enter human trials in ‘the second half of this year’.
She said the previous trials showed it had the ‘desired effect’ in mice, while also ensuring they remain ‘viable and healthy’.
WHAT ARE THE CURRENT METHODS OF CONTRACEPTION AVAILABLE TO MEN?
There have been few changes in male contraception compared with the range of options available to women.
Although there’s ongoing research into a male contraceptive pill, there is not one available yet.
At the moment, the 2 contraceptive methods available to men are:
- Condoms – a barrier form of contraception that stops sperm from reaching and fertilizing an egg
- Vasectomy – a minor, usually permanent, surgical procedure that stops sperm from reaching the semen ejaculated from the penis
The withdrawal method of taking your penis out of your partner’s vagina before ejaculating is not a method of contraception.
This is because sperm can be released before ejaculation and cause pregnancy.
‘Of course, you have to be careful with this analysis because they are mice and not humans, but nevertheless the effect was very, very promising,’ he said.
YourChoice Therapeutics — the manufacturer which says it aims to ‘revolutionize’ contraception — will apply to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for permission to begin the trials.
The number of participants being recruited and their ages were not revealed.
Scientists have been trying since the 1950s to develop an effective male oral contraceptive, including pills, gels and injections.
None have been approved, and even the most promising options are still thought to be years away from being widely available.
A major hurdle is that the female contraceptive works by preventing ovulation, which happens once a month.
Any male contraceptives would need to interrupt the production of millions of sperm made by men every day.
Most of the drugs undergoing clinical trials target testosterone, blocking the male sex hormone from producing healthy sperm cells.
Doctors say, however, that the testosterone-blocking action can trigger weight gain, depression and increase cholesterol.
‘We wanted to develop a non-hormonal male contraceptive to avoid these side effects,’ Abdullah Al Noman, who helped create YCT529, said.
YCT529 targets retinoic acid receptor alpha (RAR-a), a protein heavily involved in the development of cells, including sperm formation.
When they gave the drug orally to mice for four weeks, it ‘dramatically reduced’ their sperm counts, the researchers said.
It was also 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy and worked ‘without any observable side effects’.
‘The mice could father pups again four to six weeks after they stopped receiving the compound,’ the scientists said.
Condoms, which are ‘prone to failure’, and a vasectomy — a surgical procedure that permanently prevents pregnancy — are the only effective birth control options for men.
Men need ‘an effective, long-lasting but reversible contraceptive, similar to the birth control pill for women’, they said.