For the longest time, women have been largely responsible for preventing pregnancies, but it looks like things are finally changing. Scientists are now closer than ever to finally developing a male contraceptive pill. After 50 years since the introduction of The Pill, researchers from the University of Wolverhampton in the UK have discovered a way to “switch off” the sperm’s ability to swim, thus making men temporarily infertile.
“The results are startling—and almost instant”
Lead researcher Professor John Howl told The Telegraph that the results were immediate. “The results are startling—and almost instant,” he said. “When you take healthy sperm and add our compound, within a few minutes the sperm basically cannot move.”
Howl and his team did this by creating a compound that could penetrate the sperm cell and manipulate how it works.
“We are basically designing peptides that can alter the physiology of sperm,” explained Dr. Sarah Jones in a media release. “Ironically, sperm are notoriously difficult to penetrate, but with cell penetrating peptides we are now able to cross an otherwise impermeable barrier to manipulate the intracellular biology of sperm so as to enhance or inhibit motility.
“We hope to develop something that will be clinically useful and can be taken forward in the future.”
So far, Howl and his team have tested their compound on cow and human sperm. Within the next three years, they will be testing on live animals.
When women take oral contraceptives, they are usually effective after 7 days of daily use. Should they want to conceive, women are usually advised to stop taking the Pill weeks or months before they start trying.
This new discovery, on the other hand, could lead to medication that a man could take just hours or even minutes before intercourse. Whether the resulting medication would be a pill, nasal spray, or sub-skin implant is still not yet determined—Howl said it’s still “too early to say.”
“It would help men who want to have control over their own fertility”
Family planning and reproductive health professor John Guillebaud of University College London told The Telegraph that reversible male contraceptive would benefit many couples. especially with women who can’t take the Pill.
“It would also help men who want to have control over their own fertility,” he added. “For example, to ensure they do not get trapped into having a child by a woman who says she is on the Pill, but isn’t.”
According to The Huffington Post, if all goes according to plan, the male contraceptive pill could be available by 2021.