A male contraceptive pill that doesn't use hormones

The creation of an effective and reversible male contraceptive method (that isn't the condom) is currently a hot research topic, as various institutes attempt to come up with a way of stopping sperm without doing any permanent harm. None of these attempts has yet resulted in a male pill, but now scientists have discovered a formula that just might work.

Described in the newest issue of Cell, this technique relies on a newly discovered compound that can effectively cross the boundary from blood vessels into the testis. The chemical is a thienodiazepine inhibitor called JQ1, which targets the protein BRDT, which is tied to sperm development. On JQ1, mice produce fewer sperm, and the ones they produce are much worse swimmers. Even better, the compound doesn't change testosterone levels, or lead to any apparent decrease in sex drive.

And the big news? Totally reversible, with no apparent side-effects or damage to future offspring.

Great, we've got mice breeding less — but will this work on humans? The authors are optimistic, ending their paper by saying:

Because human and mouse BRDT proteins are highly conserved and have nearly identical bromodomain pockets based on our structural predictions, we envision that our discoveries can be completely translated to men, providing a novel and efficacious strategy for a male contraceptive.

I'll believe it when it's in the pharmacy.

Illustration by Mishchenko Mikhail via Shutterstock