These results are to be presented at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society. They mark an important step in the development of male contraception, which remains marginal in couples. The search for birth control pills for men dates back to the 1960s resolution of a female equivalent, Dr. Abdullah Al Noman, a University of Minnesota graduate student, told AFP. conference. “Many studies show that men are interested in sharing responsibility for contraception within a couple.”, he says, but to date there are only two effective and widely recognized solutions: condoms and vasectomy, a long-term solution that is sometimes difficult (and expensive) to return to. Other methods, such as heated briefs and a testicle ring, remain confidential and are not endorsed by health authorities.
The action of the female pill is based on hormones that disrupt the menstrual cycle. Researchers have long tried to develop a male equivalent using the same method and targeting the male hormone testosterone. But these attempts have caused unwanted side effects, such as weight gain, bouts of depression, and elevated cholesterol levels, which increase the risk of heart disease. Women’s pills also cause side effects, including an increased risk of blood clots.
To develop a non-hormonal pill, Abdullah Al Noman, MD, working in the laboratory of Professor Gunda Georg, targeted a protein, retinoic acid receptor alpha (RAR-alpha). In the human body, vitamin A is converted into many elements, including retinoic acid, which plays an important role in cell growth, sperm formation, and embryonic development. Retinoic acid needs these RAR-alpha receptors to function: laboratory experiments have shown that mice lacking the gene encoding this receptor are infertile.
For their work, this laboratory has developed a compound that blocks the action of PAP-alpha. The researchers used a computer model to determine the best molecular structure. Their chemical compound, called YCT529, was designed to interact only with RAR-alpha and not with the other two neighboring receptors, RAR-beta and RAR-gamma, to limit side effects.
Commercialization is envisaged within five years
When administered orally to male mice for four weeks, YCT529 drastically reduced sperm production and was 99% effective in preventing pregnancy without any side effects. And six weeks after stopping YCT529, the mice were able to breed again. The team, funded by the US Institutes of Health (NIH) and the nonprofit Male Contraception Initiative, is working with YourChoice Therapeutics to begin clinical trials in the second half of 2022, said Professor Gunda Georg. “I think it can move forward quickly” she said, estimating that commercialization could happen within five years. “There are no guarantees of success… but I would be very surprised if I didn’t see the effect in humans.”added the chemist.
However, will women trust men enough to take on a task that until now has almost entirely depended on them? Studies have shown that most women would be willing to rely on their partner, and a significant number of men reported being willing to take birth control pills. “Male contraception will be added to existing options and will allow men and women to choose the contraceptive method they feel is most appropriate.”welcomed the male contraceptive initiative.