Creating an effective form of male birth control is a worthy endeavor: It would give couples more contraceptive options besides hormonal pills, patches, rings, and implants for women, and condoms and vasectomies for men. But the much-discussed idea has yet to bear fruit.
In 2013, we reported on a type of pill that would stop the release of sperm by targeting proteins that help launch sperm. Yet here we sit with no male birth control. Luckily, scientists have worked on other concepts in the meantime. Last month, we heard about a scrotal injection (!) called Vasalgel that physically blocks the sperm from entering through the vas deferens, the ductal highway to the urethra. Somehow we doubt this will catch on.
Now researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have come up with yet another concept they hope will be free of side effects, unlike the female pill. Writing in the journal Protein Expression and Purification, they reported that they were able to manufacture an enzyme found only in sperm that affects its motility. Their pipe dream is to create a drug that targets the enzyme and renders the little guys unable to swim toward an egg. And then, you know, test it in humans at some point.
Some critics think the idea in general won’t take off because men are fertile much longer than women, and proving that pills are safe long-term (and don’t affect urological function) would be very costly for a potential drug-maker. So while stories about male contraception keep promising that it’s coming “soon,” don’t hold your breath.