British scientists have discovered a way to make the male contraceptive pill a reality, which has the potential to revolutionize the sex lives of millions of couples all over the world.
For more than 50 years, researchers have been trying to create reliable male contraceptive alternatives to condoms or having a vasectomy, but until now there has been minimal progress.
However, a breakthrough discovery has found an effective way to make men temporarily infertile just minutes before sexual intercourse and it would be as simple as taking a pill, using a nasal spray, or wearing a patch.
How does it work?
Scientists have created microscopic compounds that cuts off sperm’s ability to swim, which means that there is no chance of natural fertilization of the female egg.
The compounds sneak themselves into the sperm, which de-activates their wiggling tails and stops them from being able to swim.
Professor John Howl of Wolverhampton University and the lead researcher of the study said: “The results are startling- and almost instant! When you take healthy sperm, and add our compound, within a few minutes the sperm basically cannot move.”
Poorly moving sperm, known as low motility, is often the cause of male infertility, which is how the researchers invented the concept for their new design. The Wolverhampton team collaborated with Portuguese researchers and together they created a cell-penetrating peptide, a compound which is absorbed by sperm and brings their movement to a standstill.
“This is a totally new approach. Nobody else has ever done this before,” said Professor Howl.
How long would it last?
While women are typically advised to stop taking the pill months before trying to conceive, the male pill’s effect would wear off within days, which would restore fertility.
Family planning experts have said that a reversible male contraceptive pill would benefit millions of couples, especially in cases where the woman is unable to take a contraceptive pill for medical reasons.
It could assist in preventing unwanted pregnancies, something that couples are collectively investing £13 billion in every year in the UK.
Professor John Guillebaud from the University College in London said: “It would help men who want to have control over their own fertility- for example, to ensure that they do not get trapped into having a child by a woman who says that she is on the Pill, but isn’t.”
When will it be available?
Professor Howl said that thanks in part to a £175,000 Portuguese grant, they planned to start live animal testing in 2 to 3 years from now, which means that the final product could be available as early as 2021.
It takes approximately 3 to 5 years for a new drug to come onto the market, but the team is hopeful that the due to the high demand for contraceptive alternatives they will see their vision become a reality within the next 5 years.
“It’s too early to say if the final product will be a pill, a nasal spray or a sub-skin implant, but these are all possibilities,” says Professor Howl.