Hope Springs Anew for Reversible Male Birth Control

By Sophie Bushwick | August 17, 2012 2:38 pm

male pill
Hey baby, I take my pill every day…if you know what I mean

Women can choose from a plethora of reversible birth control options, including diaphragms, IUDs, and the Pill. On the other hand, when men want to be responsible without resorting to permanent infertility, they have only one choice: condoms. But a new study has found a compound that may hold the key to a reversible male birth control pill.

The manufacturers of any male pill face the daunting task of restraining the production of about 1,000 sperm per second. To create all those sperm, the testes depend on, among other things, a protein called bromodomain, or BRDT. It was this protein that researchers decided to hobble, using a compound called JQ1 can pass from the blood into the testes and bind to BRDT, preventing the molecule from carrying out its usual duties and the testes from producing viable sperm.

When researchers gave male mice regular injections of JQ1, the rodents’ testes shrank and their sperm counts dropped. Those sperm that they did produce swam poorly. And when fourteen lucky male mice, half of them treated with JQ1, half of them with placebo injections, mated with females, the ones receiving low daily doses of JQ1 had a much-reduced success rate as measured in number of offspring. By upping the dosage, the scientists were able bring that number down to zero. A little over a month after they stopped receiving JQ1, the mice recovered their fertility and sired as many litters and healthy pups as the control mice.

There have been many attempts to develop a male contraceptive, from hormonal treatments or gels, to substances that target sperm cells’ ability to reach maturitysurvive in the uterus, or find the egg at all, to just blasting the testes with ultrasound. All these remain in development, and JQ1 may well join them in the long waiting line of not-quite-perfect products—who knows, for instance, how well the compound might work in human males. But a variety of potential birth control options, as we can see from the female example, are always nice.

Image of pill doctor via Shutterstock

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Gil

    Having shrinking testes is a little cringe inducing, though… still, it’ll be interesting to follow the research and I suppose it isn’t necessarily more cringe inducing than a vacestomy.

  • Chris

    @1 Gil
    Just tell her “I was in the pool!”

    Also there is another form men can use. It’s called abstinence. I have successfully used it for 32 years. Although granted I didn’t know what to do with the equipment for the first 12 years.

  • Nate

    Sooo……. you are a 32 year old virgin? :|

  • Brad

    Well Chris, something tells me you will continue to experience abstinence for quite some time to come…

    I had a vasectomy about 15 years ago and I don’t think my orgasms have been quite as intense as they were before the surgery.

    I resisted the suggestion once or twice that I reverse the vasectomy, a procedure I refer to as a reconnectomy.

  • MrsRobinson

    @2 Chris- abstinence is unnatural. :P

  • floodmouse

    @MrsRobinson:

    “You cannot go against nature,
    ’cause when you do,
    Go against nature,
    that’s part of nature too.”

    – Love & Rockets, “No New Tale To Tell”

    Abstinence is said to be 100% effective, unless you are (A) kidnapped by aliens who steal your eggs/sperm; (B) a victim of immaculate conception; (C) raped by a swam who is really Zeus in disguise.

  • floodmouse

    I need to amend my earlier post on this thread. It has been brought to my attention that your alien stalker girlfriend may be in possession of a high enough level of technology that she doesn’t need to obtain fully developed eggs/sperm from your body in order to reproduce. She may be able to use something as simple as fresh hair cuttings or fingernail clippings, or for that matter, a skin sample scraped off your left eyebrown, in order to reverse engineer stem cells and use them to create sperm. So basically if you are looking for an absolute guarantee that your DNA won’t be reproduced, abstinence won’t work.

    Sorry, Chris – if an alien stalker sets her sights on your body, looks like you’re just screwed. Good luck with your legal defense on the paternity suit. ;)

  • Jumblepudding

    a side benefit to women on the pill is acne control. This one doesn’t sound like it would have any benefit like that to men. If it makes me put on weight in addition to that other terrifying alteration to my anatomy, I’m out.

  • Anthony

    Think of the legal liability. Oy!

    I am glad I had The Big Snip. I am in the same boat as Brad, but with the risk of long term side effects from this possible new treatemnt I will take the devil I know.

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