A new research found that male birth control may become a thing in the future, if one of the proteins found in sperm cells will be blocked.
For their new study, the researchers looked at a protein – also known as protein phosphatase 3 – called calcineurin (CN), which can be found in sperm-producing cells.
In an experiment that was conducted on mice, the researchers gave the mice two types of drugs – cyclosporine FK506 and A – both of which were meant to block calcineurin. According to the researchers, the mice turned out to be infertile after only a few days of treatment, because of some defects that developed in their sperm. The mice became fertile again approximately a week after the treatment stopped, which means that the drugs they were administered did not have permanent effects on calcineurin.
Researchers say that the calcineurin protein is found in human sperm as well, and maybe a similar treatment that blocks the calcineurin could be used as male birth control.
“Considering these results in mice, sperm calcineurin may be a target for reversible and rapidly acting human male contraceptives,” stated the researchers from Osaka University in Japan.
Further research must be conducted in order to see how humans would react to a similar treatment.
In a previous study, the researchers asked nine men who had undergone a kidney transplant, to take cyclosporine A. However, three out of the four participants who wanted to become fathers, still proved to be fertile when they tried to have children, researchers say.
Other studies that used the cyclosporine A treatment in men, found that it does indeed affect sperm activity and movement.
If the calcineurin protein works well, it may be a very good alternative to male contraceptives that are based on hormones, because unlike hormones, the protein will not alter the men’s sex drive, Patricia Morris, a director of biomedical research at the non-profit research organization Population Council, in New York, stated.
According to Morris, by focusing on this specific protein only, the risks of side effects in other tissues could potentially be significantly lower.
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