Someday soon, perhaps, men will also know the joys of setting a daily timer to pop their birth control pill.
Researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Baylor College of Medicine say they've found a compound that allows them to temporarily sap the strength of a mouse's sperm. They described the compound JQ1 in a paper appearing Thursday in the journal Cell.
"Our findings demonstrate that, when given to rodents, this compound produces a rapid and reversible decrease in sperm count and mobility with profound effects on fertility," Dana-Farber researcher and senior author James Bradner said in a statement Thursday.
JQ1 works by throwing a wrench in the sperm's development by inhibiting a protein called BRDT. The compound was initially developed to block a cancer-causing gene, but researchers became interested in exploring its contraceptive potential when other studies showed that mice lacking BRDT, JQ1's target, were infertile.
When the researchers treated mice with JQ1, they produced less sperm, and any sperm they did produce were more sluggish. Once the mice were taken off JQ1, normal sperm production resumed. The drug did not affect the mating behavior or testosterone production of the treated mice, and offspring conceived after the drug was used were healthy, according to the paper.
Because the proteins targeted by JQ1 are fairly similar in mice and men, "we envision that our discoveries can be completely translated to men, providing a novel and efficacious strategy for a male contraceptive," the authors wrote.
SOURCE: Matzuk et al. "Small-Molecule Inhibition of BRDT for Male Contraception." Cell 150: 673-684, 17 August 2012.