Male birth control is almost 100% effective

Women’s birth control pills appeared in the 60s of the last century, and since then, researchers have been trying to create a male counterpart. The maturation of germ cells depends on hormones, and female contraceptives use hormonal signals that control the menstrual cycle to prevent the egg from maturing for fertilization. Female contraceptives sometimes cause certain side effects, but they are not considered so unpleasant – compared to the ability to prevent unwanted pregnancies (although, of course, everything is individual here). They tried to follow the same path with male contraceptives, which should act, respectively, on testosterone signals. But it turned out that for men, the side effects of such contraceptive pills will be very serious – from depression to very overweight and high “bad cholesterol” in the blood.

You can try to make a non-hormonal male contraceptive – like the one that was synthesized by employees of the University of Minnesota, who spoke about their experiments at a conference of the American Chemical Society. Their molecule, so far called YCT529, binds to the RAR-α receptor, or retinoic acid receptor alpha, that is, the retinoic acid alpha receptor. Retinoic acid is formed during the conversion of retinol, or true vitamin A. (Strictly speaking, RAR-α does not capture the vitamin itself, and vitamin A is often understood as a group of substances that includes retinol, retinoic acid, and some others.) acid is needed for the growth and maturation of cells, its role is very important during embryonic development, but not only – it is necessary for the precursors of germ cells from which spermatozoa are formed.

If the RAR-α receptor gene is turned off in mice, they will be sterile, just as they will be sterile if they are fed a substance that itself binds to RAR-α and temporarily disables it. After a month of taking a molecule that blocks RAR-α, male mice became 99% infertile; when they stopped giving it to them, then after a month and a half the ability to have offspring returned to the males. The molecule itself was designed to bind specifically to RAR-α. For retinoic acid, there are also RAR-β and RAR-γ receptors, and if the contraceptive does not bind to other receptors, they will continue to work and there will be fewer possible side effects.

Indeed, there were no side effects: the mice maintained normal weight and appetite, and were active as always. It is possible that their mood somehow deteriorated or their head hurt, but there was no way to find out about this – here you need to wait for clinical studies, which, as the authors of the work expect, will begin in the next six months.

Source: Автономная некоммерческая организация "Редакция журнала «Наука и жизнь»" by

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