EDINBURGH, Scotland (UPI) — A gene identified as critical for the production of healthy sperm could lead to a male contraceptive pill, researchers in Scotland say.
Researchers at the Center for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh said experiments in mice determined the gene, known as Katnal1, was involved in the final stages of making sperm, the BBC reported Friday.
A drug capable of interrupting the operation of Katnal1 could be a reversible male contraceptive, they said.
Katnal1 contains the blueprints for a protein in cells that support the development of sperm, and without the protein sperm do not fully form and the body disposes of them.
“If we can find a way to target this gene in [human] testes, we could potentially develop a non-hormonal contraceptive,” researchers Lee Smith said.
“The important thing is that the effects of such a drug would be reversible because Katnal1 only affects sperm cells in the later stages of development, so it would not hinder the early stages of sperm production and the overall ability to produce sperm.”
A non-hormonal contraceptive for men has been a “Holy Grail” of research for many years, scientists said.
“The gene described by the research group in Edinburgh sounds like an exciting new possible target for a new male contraceptive, but it may also shed light on why some men are sub-fertile and why their sperm does not work properly,” said Allen Pacey, a senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield in England.