By Kristen Jordan Shamus
Detroit Free Press
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Could a male birth control pill be on the way? Not just yet, but scientists are making new discoveries with genes that could potentially block the production of sperm in men.
Detroit Free Press
Scientists at Michigan State University might have uncovered the key to developing an effective male birth control pill.
In studying the causes of male fertility and infertility and using a new gene editing technology, researchers discovered that they can effectively block the gene that controls sperm production in mice, rendering them infertile.
Chen Chen PhD., an assistant professor of animal science at MSU, said his team’s discovery is a first step in finding drug treatments that could similarly block the genetic expression of this gene, called PNLDC1, in humans.
“More than 500,000 men get vasectomies every year,” Chen said. “There’s a huge market for this research, and now we further understand the genetic underpinnings of sperm development in mammals.
“I think for the general public there is great need in another male contraceptive method.”
The genetic editing technology knocked out or completely blocked the PNLDC1 expression in male mice embryos, making the male mice infertile.
Since mice are mammals and use many of the same genes as humans in reproduction, it suggests a similar approach could be used in developing a form of human male contraception.
In the mice Chen and his team studied, the sterilization was permanent.
“If you delete the gene from birth, it would cause permanent sterility,” he said. “However, because the system we are studying functions both neonatally and post-natally, there is a good chance that if you block the same protein function later on, it would have the same effect … but it’s not affecting permanent sperm production.