Birth control for men: New research shows that the JQ1 molecule can make men temporarily infertile, which could help formation of effective male contraception; Susan Wysocki of iWoman’s Health weighs in
Could a male birth control pill really be heading toward a pharmacy near you? Quite possibly, according to recent news.
While working on cancer inhibitor research, James Bradner, of Harvard University’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, says he realized that molecule, named JQ1, can also inhibit a protein in the male testes that is imperative to fertility. So far, this has only been tested in mice, but the findings could be revolutionary, and we could know just how effective it is in humans in about a year.
So what would this mean for the way women and men approach contraception and birth control? We reached out to Susan Wysocki, WHNP, FAANP and President at iWoman’s Health to get her thoughts. Here’s what she said…
One of the most common questions I get when lecturing about contraception is “when will there be a method for men?”
The discovery that JQ1 originally being tested for treatment of cancer but found to inhibit sperm production sounds the most promising yet. But it will be a long time before it is tested and even longer, assuming it works, to get it to market. Let’s hope there is something for men.
The most common comment I hear is, “Yes, but would you trust a man to say he is protected?”
Unless a man uses a condom, he is vulnerable to an unintended pregnancy and the responsibility that goes with it. Birth control methods for women are not perfect, particularly those that rely on correct and consistent use. So a man might ask the same question: “Can I be sure that she is using her birth control correctly?”
Either way, a reversible male method of contraception would provide a shift in paradigm where men can think of contraception to protect themselves from unintended life-changing events. If there was something other than condoms or vasectomy, it could change the way that men look at the vulnerability they have relying on someone else for protection. That could bring about a major shift in how unintended pregnancy is viewed.
“A pharmacologic approach to male contraception remains a longstanding challenge in medicine,” Bradner and Martin Matzuk, of the Baylor College of Medicine write in their study, published in the journal Cell, revealing their findings. “Treatment of mice with JQ1 reduced seminiferous tubule area, testis size, and spermatozoa number and motility without affecting hormone levels. Although JQ1-treated males mate normally, inhibitory effects of JQ1 evident at the spermatocyte and round spermatid stages cause a complete and reversible contraceptive effect. These data establish a new contraceptive that can cross the blood:testis boundary and inhibit bromodomain activity during spermatogenesis, providing a lead compound targeting the male germ cell for contraception.”
“These cells effectively forget to make mature sperm,” Bradner told U.S. News & World Report. “The result is a profound decrease in sperm count and impared motility, leading to a complete contraceptive effect. It’s really stunning. As early as next year, we may have a sense of how well this works in humans.”
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