Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland have made a major breakthrough in developing a new male contraceptive.
That is, a non-hormone related male contraceptive. Current male contraceptives rely on halting the production of testosterone and can result in adverse side effects such as mood swings, acne, and irritability.
The potential for a new male contraceptive is based on the discovery of a specific gene. That gene, known as Katnal1, is crucial for sperm to fully mature in the testes.
By understanding what exactly Katnal1 does and how it works, researchers hope to be able to intercept the process and make the genes temporarily unproductive.
Dr. Lee Smith from the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Reproductive Health, and author on the study, says "If we can find a way to target this gene in the testes, we could potentially develop a non-hormonal contraceptive."
Almost more exciting than the prospect of a new male contraceptive is the idea that this discovery might also lead to new male infertility treatments.
Lee and his team discovered in their study that Katnal1, when “out of service”, makes male mice infertile.
Dr. Smith says of the research study findings that "Such information will be of utility both for increasing our understanding of male infertility and the development of treatments and non-hormonal male contraceptives."
Discovery of the gene is quite remarkable as this gene is responsible for the entire process of healthy sperm production, maturation, and even the breaking down and rebuilding of important structures within the testes.
As Smith puts it, "Although other research is being carried out into non-hormonal male contraceptives, identification of a gene that controls sperm production in the way Katnal1 does is a unique and significant step forward in our understanding of testis biology."
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