Male contraceptive pill found 99% effective in mice

A team of scientists said on Wednesday that they have developed an oral male contraceptive that is 99 percent effective in rats with no side effects, and could enter human trials by the end of this year.

The findings will be presented at the American Chemical Society’s spring meeting, and mark an important step toward expanding responsibilities as well as birth control options for men.

Ever since the female birth control pill was first approved in the 1960s, researchers have been interested in a male counterpart, Abdullah Al Noman, MD, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota who will present the work, told AFP. .

“Many studies have shown that men are more interested in sharing birth control responsibility with their partners,” he said — but so far, only two effective options have been available: condoms or vasectomy.

Vasectomy reversal surgery is expensive and not always successful.

The female pill uses hormones to disrupt the menstrual cycle, and historical efforts to develop a male counterpart target the male sex hormone testosterone.

However, the problem with this approach was that it caused side effects such as weight gain, depression, and increased levels of cholesterol called low-density lipoprotein, which increases the risk of heart disease.

The female pill also has side effects, including increased risk of blood clotting – but since women face a risk of becoming pregnant in the absence of contraception, the risk calculations are different.

non hormonal
To develop a non-hormonal drug, Noman, working in Professor Gunda George’s lab, targeted a protein called “retinoic acid receptor (RAR) alpha”.

Inside the body, vitamin A is converted into various forms, including retinoic acid, which plays an important role in cell growth, sperm formation, and embryonic development.

Retinoic acid is required to interact with RAR-alpha to perform these functions, and laboratory experiments have shown mice without the gene that makes RAR-alpha are sterile.

For their work, Noman and George developed a compound that blocks the action of RAR-alpha. He identified the best molecular structure with the help of computer model.

“If we know what the keyhole looks like, we can make a better key — that’s where the computational model comes in,” Noman said.

Their chemical, known as YCT529, was specifically designed to interact with RAR-alpha and not with the two other related receptors RAR-beta and RAR-gamma, reducing potential side effects. to do.

Five years in the market?
When administered orally to male rats for four weeks, YCT529 significantly reduced sperm count and was 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, without any adverse events.

Four to six weeks after taking the drug, the rats could once again have puppies.

George said the team, which has received funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Male Contraceptive Initiative, is working with a company called YourChoice Therapeutics to begin human trials by the third or fourth quarter of 2022.

“I am optimistic that this will move quickly,” she said, envisaging a possible timeline in the market in five years or less.

“There’s no guarantee that this will work… but I’d be really surprised if we don’t see the effect in humans as well,” he said.

A persistent question about the male birth control pills of the future has been whether women will trust men to use them.

But surveys have shown that most women would actually have confidence in their partners, and a significant number of men indicated they would be open to the drug.

The non-profit Male Contraceptive Initiative, which engages in fundraising and advocacy, argues, “Men will add contraceptive methods to the mix, providing new options that allow men and women to contribute appropriately to contraceptive use.” Huh.”

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