Scientists believe they may be a step closer to developing a safe male contraceptive pill after they identified a gene in mice vital to the final stages of sperm production, reports the Telegraph.
The study, by researchers at the Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh, and originally an investigation into the causes of male infertility, could mean a safe, reversible contraceptive pill for men will be available in the future.
The researchers discovered the gene Katnal 1, which controls the final stages of sperm development. If blocked, it could result in temporary infertility.
Researcher Dr Lee Smith at the University of Edinburgh said, “If we can find a way to target this gene in the testes, we could potentially develop a non-hormonal contraceptive.”
The important thing, according to Dr Lee, is that the effects of the drug would be reversible since Katnal 1 only affects sperm in the later stages of development.
Male contraception is currently largely limited to condoms or a vasectomy.
Although research into a male pill has been ongoing for 50 years, the need to neutralise millions of sperm every day – as opposed to one egg per month with the female contraceptive pill – has thwarted scientists thus far.
According to Netdoctor, around 3.5 million women in the UK take the Pill, roughly one in three of all women of reproductive age.