A birth control pill for men developed by a team of researchers would be 99% effective in testing on mice.
A team of scientists announced on Wednesday that they have developed a male contraceptive pill that is 99% effective for mice without causing visible side effects, and which can be tested on men before the end of the year.
These results will be presented at the American Chemical Society’s Spring Conference. They mark an important step for male contraception, which remains very marginal within couples.
The search for a birth control pill for men goes as far back as the permit in the 1960s of its equivalent for women, Md Abdullah Al Noman, a master’s student at the University of Minnesota, told AFP. , who will present this work at the conference.
“Many studies show that men are interested in sharing the responsibility for contraception within the couple,” he says, but there are only two effective and recognized solutions to date: condoms and vasectomy – a durable solution as it is sometimes complicated ( and animals). ) to return.
Without the hormones
The function of the female pill is based on hormones that disrupt the menstrual cycle. Researchers have long tried to develop a male equivalent by using the same method and acting on a male hormone, testosterone. However, these trials caused unwanted side effects such as weight gain, bouts of depression and increased cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease.
The female pill also causes side effects – including an increased risk of blood clots. To develop a non-hormonal pill, Md Abdullah Al Noman, who works in Professor Gunda Georg’s laboratory, targeted a protein, the retinoic acid receptor alpha (RAR-alpha).
In the human body, vitamin A is converted into many elements, including retinoic acid, which plays an important role in cell growth, sperm formation and embryonic development. Retinoic acid needs these RAR-alpha receptors to work: laboratory tests have shown that mice deprived of the gene encoding this receptor are sterile.
For its work, this laboratory has developed a compound that blocks the action of RAR-alpha. The researchers used a computer model to identify the best possible molecular structure. Their chemical compound, called YCT529, was designed to interact only with RAR-alpha, and not with two other neighboring receptors, RAR-beta and RAR-gamma, to limit side effects.
Commercialization is expected within five years
Orally administered to male mice for four weeks, YCT529 drastically reduced sperm production and was 99% effective in preventing pregnancy, with no side effects observed. And six weeks after stopping taking YCT529, the mice were able to reproduce again.
The team, funded by the U.S. Institutes of Health (NIH) and non-profit Male Contraceptive Initiative, is working with YourChoice Therapeutics to begin clinical trials in the second half of 2022, said Professor Gunda Georg.
“I think it can move fast forward,” she said, estimating that commercialization could happen within five years. “There is no guarantee of success … but I would be really surprised not to observe an effect on humans as well,” the chemist added.
Would women, however, trust men enough to take on a cause that has so far been almost entirely up to them? Studies have shown that the majority of women would be willing to trust their partner, and a significant number of men have reported that they are willing to take birth control pills.