Hormonal birth control for women was first introduced in the 1960s, and to this day women continue to carry the burden of side effects and healthcare costs associated with pregnancy prevention. In the last few years, efforts to introduce male birth control strategies, such as oral medication, injectables, and heat treatment to the testes, have largely failed due to toxicity concerns and generalized stigma, despite the fact that women’s birth control comes with these same challenges. Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine have made another attempt at developing male birth control with the discovery of an oral medication with limited side effects. 

The researchers investigated a compound named CDD-221 and discovered that mice treated with CDD-221 did not sire litters and had no detectable safety concerns. Once the dosing regimen was discontinued, the mice completely regained fertility in under two months. The team then found that the mechanism of action for this drug is the inhibition of a protein called STK33, which is found at high levels in the testes. STK33 is thought to be involved with creating the structure that allows sperm to “swim” using their tails, so it makes sense that preventing this function would lead to defective sperm. Some humans are naturally deficient in this protein and show no systemic health concerns other than infertility, suggesting that using this protein as a drug target in men could be a safe route to prevent pregnancy. 

Though this is a preliminary result,  further studies on this molecule will hopefully lead to alternate routes to birth control that will shift the burden more equally between men and women. It is absolutely essential to equity in healthcare that we do not accept the current disparity in reproductive health and actively work to level the field. 

This study was led by Angela Ku with corresponding author Martin Mazuk at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas.

Managing Correspondent: Olivia Lavidor

Press Article: New Type of Reversible Male Contraception Proves a Success in Mouse Study (ScienceAlert)

Original Journal Article: Reversible male contraception by targeted inhibition of serine/threonine kinase 33 (Science)

Image Credit: Pixabay

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