Birth control may no longer be solely reliant on the woman. There has been a big development towards expanding the birth control options for men. A team of scientists has developed a male oral birth control pill that was 99 percent effective in mice and didn’t cause observable side effects. The drug is expected to enter human trials by the end of this year, according to the scientists.
They will also present the findings at the American Chemical Society’s spring meeting.
Researchers have been invested in finding a male equivalent to the female birth control pill since it was first approved in the 1960s, Md Abdullah Al Noman, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota who will present the work says.
Sharing the responsibility
“Multiple studies showed that men are interested in sharing the responsibility of birth control with their partners,” he says. Prior to this, males had two effective options: condoms or vasectomies. The latter is often expensive and not always 100 percent successful.
The efforts to develop a male equivalent involved targeting the male sex hormone testosterone. However, it caused severe side effects such as weight gain, depression, and increased levels of a cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein, which increases heart disease risks.
Although the female pill also carries side effects such as blood-clotting risks, the calculation risk is different because women face becoming pregnant without contraception.
Developing a non-hormonal drug
With hopes of developing a non-hormonal drug, Noman, who works in the lab of Professor Gunda Georg, targeted a protein called “retinoic acid receptor (RAR) alpha.”
Our bodies convert vitamin A into different forms, including retinoic acid, a principal ingredient in any wrinkle-banishing super serum. Retinoic acid plays important roles in cell growth, sperm formation, and embryo development. In the body, retinoic acid binds to a group of retinoic acid receptors to encourage sperm to mature and function properly.
In order to perform these functions, retinoic acid needs to interact with RAR-alpha. Lab experiments have shown mice without the gene that creates RAR-alpha are sterile. So, Noman and Georg developed a compound that blocks the action of RAR-alpha. The best molecular structure was identified with the help of a computer model.
“If we know what the keyhole looks like, then we can make a better key — that’s where the computational model comes in,” Noman adds.
After several years of research and constructing over 100 potential drug candidates, the University of Minnesota researchers struck gold with