After decades of research, experiments and failure, scientists may have finally made the breakthrough needed to create a non-barrier contraception for men that doesn’t require surgery. Yes, the birth control pill for men may finally become a reality.
Researchers at the University of Wolverhampton in the United Kingdom have come up with a new approach that may make men temporarily infertile. It uses a peptide — a short chain of amino acids — that inhibits the ability of the sperm to swim, making it impossible for it to fertilize the egg. In collaboration with scientists from Aveiro University in Portugal, the U.K. researchers created a cell-penetrating peptide that turns off the protein that allows the sperm to swim.
If the compound can be made into a successful contraceptive, its benefits could be significant. It would do away with much of the hormonal side effects that women who are on the pill face. It would also allow men to be more in control of their own fertility without having to go through a vasectomy, which even though reversible, is still a surgery.
Beside these, the particular compound created by the researchers has its own benefits. The pill used by women needs to be taken for at least a few days before it starts to act like an effective contraceptive, while the new compound could take effect within hours, or even minutes. And the pill taken by women needs to be stopped weeks, if not months, before trying to conceive, while the pill for men will take only a few days to wear off.
John Howl, lead researcher from the University of Wolverhampton, told the Mail on Sunday: “The results are startling – and almost instant. When you take healthy sperm and add our compound, within a few minutes the sperm basically cannot move.”
The compound was tested on human and bovine sperm, but don’t expect the pill any time soon. Live animal tests are expected to start in about three years.
Don’t be sure that it will be a pill, either. According to Howl, it is still “too early to say” what form the compound will take, but suggested that a pill, a nasal spray and a subdermal implant were all possibilities.