A new type of male contraceptive is in development. The ‘pill’, if it makes it into production, is based on the discovery of an important gene which is required for sperm development.
According to Eureka, researchers based at the University of Edinburgh have discovered that a gene, called Katnal1, is necessary for sperm to mature in the testes. The scientists, led by Dr. Lee Smith, Reader in Genetic Endocrinology, have shown that if the gene is controlled the sperm can be prevented from maturing (a process called spermatogenesis). As the sperm has not matured, it cannot fertilize and could thus be used as a contraceptive.
The implication of the research is that it can lead to the development of a male contraceptive that does not rely on disrupting the production of hormones. The downsides of current hormonal based treatments are the side-effects such as irritability.
The research has been published in the journal PLoS Genetics. The reference is:
Lee B. Smith et al. KATNAL1 Regulation of Sertoli Cell Microtubule Dynamics Is Essential for Spermiogenesis and Male Fertility. PLoS Genetics, 2012; 8 (5): e1002697