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From pills to intrauterine devices, women have many options available for birth control. However, for men there are very limited contraceptives on the market. The common ones, condoms or vasectomies, are either permanent or not 100% effective.

 New development of male contraceptives will yield new possibilities.

That said, recent research has yielded new possibilities for male birth control, one of which is Vasalgel. Vasalgel is a gel that is injected into the vas deferens, the duct that transports sperm from the testes to the urethra, where it stays to block the sperm. Unlike vasectomies, which involve cutting the vas deferens, Vasalgel can be flushed out with a solution made of baking soda, making it a reversible form of contraception. More recently, the focus has shifted to developing a pill-form of birth control for males. Two types of pills that have shown success in clinical trials are Gendarussa and an anti-Eppin agent. Gendarussa is a non-hormonal pill that functions as a contraceptive by preventing the sperm from fertilizing the egg, while the anti-Eppin agent inhibits sperm motility.

Recently, scientists have isolated a protein that can be used to create another new type of birth control pill for men. Calcineurin is a protein believed to play a role in fertility. In an experiment, researchers knocked out two genes thought to be unique in calcineurin, thereby blocking the protein. With calcineurin inhibited, the sperm became less flexible and unable to fertilize an egg. Using this information, they treated mice with two immunosuppressant drugs, cyclosporine A and FK506, which acted as calcineurin inhibitors. It took approximately four to five days for the mice to become infertile and about a week for the mice to become fertile again.

Birth control may no longer be limited to women in the future.

Although these two immunosuppressants worked as a reversible contraceptives for mice, the researchers are not suggesting that these drugs be used as a form of male birth control. Instead, they hope their discovery of calcineurin and its effects on fertility can be used to develop a novel contraceptive pill for men. With the limited options available on the market for males, the goal is to conduct further research on calcineurin and certain immunosuppressant drugs so that male birth control choices can be expanded. Perhaps one day, the selection of birth control for men will catch up to the number of choices available for women on the market. This will help encourage both men and women all over the world to use adequate protection during intercourse.

Feature Image Source: Sarah C

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