NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A new study may have found a way to make a male birth control pill a reality.
As CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Wednesday, a male contraceptive has been sought for years, but every time something looked promising, it turned out to have serious side effects.
Now, Australian and British researchers have figured out a way that might avoid those health problems, but women are advised not to give up their own birth control just yet.
For decades, most of the responsibility for contraception has fallen on women, from pills and diaphragms to foams and jellies. So the idea of a male contraceptive beyond condoms was attractive to the women, and men, who talked to CBS 2 on Wednesday.
“Why should we be suffering all the time?” a woman said.
“They’ve been taking this pill, getting sick over this pill, and they said, ‘Why don’t the men take it?’” a man said.
And a study in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggested that it might one day be possible, without the side effects of previous experimental male contraceptives. Those attempts focused on blocking testosterone to stop sperm production.
“Unfortunately, you are going to block some of the other benefits that testosterone provides,” said Dr. Martin Keltz of St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital. “It is important for healthy erectile function, healthy sexual function.”
The researchers used something called “knockout mice,” which produced sperm normally, but had been genetically engineered to be missing two key proteins that help transport sperm out of the testes.
Thus, the mice were able to have sex normally, but without sperm getting out, there were no pregnancies.
But obviously, there are a few hurdles before the phenomenon can be used to develop a human contraceptive.
“Mice are not the same as humans. Additionally, you can’t genetically manipulate humans the way you can genetically manipulate mouse generations,” Keltz said.
The goal, of course, is to figure out how to achieve the same phenomenon in a pill. An existing prostate drug inhibits some of the same proteins that the mice were missing, and the trick is finding another drug that can finish the job.
But even if doctors can work out the biology, there is still the question of trust. When asked if she would trust a man to take a pill, one woman said, “No, no way.”
Of course, like the female pill, a male version would not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
Another key would be making the male pill reversible, meaning fertility would return right after a man stops taking it.
Realistically, a male pill is at least 10 years or more away.
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