In what is one of the most revolutionary advancements in the quest for leveling the ‘contraceptive playing field,’ a NON-HORMONAL contraceptive pill for males has been developed, which so far, has proven 99 percent effective.
The findings mark a HUGE step towards expanding birth control options – as well as responsibilities – for men, and it’s about time!
Until recently, the ‘effective options’ available to men have been in the form of condoms or vasectomies which carry various risks and in the case of vasectomies, often irreversible sterilisation.
So far, the trials of the new drug have been undertaken on mice, where no side effects were observed. WAIT! Before you ‘switch off’ after hearing it’s only mice that have seen success, the drug is expected to enter human trials by the end of this year.
Professor Gunda Georg, one of the leading lab technicians expressed, “[she’s] optimistic this will move forward quickly,” and is envisaging “a possible timeline to market in five years or under.”
“There is no guarantee that it will work [on humans]…but I would really be surprised if we didn’t see an effect,” she added.
SO what does ‘NON-HORMONAL’ mean?
Since the 1960s scientists have made attempts to develop a male equivalent oral contraceptive pill. Until recently though, the pills have targeted the male sex hormone testosterone.
The problem with this approach was that it caused side effects such as weight gain, depression, and increased levels of a cholesterol known as ‘low-density lipoprotein’, which increases heart disease risks.
The female contraceptive pill also carries side effects, including blood-clotting risks – but since women face becoming pregnant in the absence of contraception, the risk calculation differs.
So a ‘non-hormonal’ option would mean the pill would NOT effect the males natural testosterone levels.
SO how does this new pill work?
The pill targets a protein called “retinoic acid receptor (RAR) alpha“.
Inside the body, vitamin A is converted into different forms, including retinoic acid, which plays important roles in cell growth, sperm formation, and embryo development.
Retinoic acid needs to interact with RAR-alpha to perform these functions, and lab experiments have shown mice without the gene that creates RAR-alpha are sterile.
A compound that blocks the action of RAR-alpha has been developed, and researchers have identified the best molecular structure to achieve this with the help of a computer model.
“If we know what the keyhole looks like, then we can make a better key – that’s where the computational model comes in,” said MD Abdullah Al Noman, leading researcher.
Their chemical compound is known as ‘YCT529,’ and was designed to interact specifically with RAR-alpha, and not two other related receptors RAR-beta and RAR-gamma, in order to minimize potential side effects.
When administered orally to male mice for four weeks, ‘YCT529’ drastically reduced sperm counts and was 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy in a mating trial.
The researchers monitored weight, appetite, and overall activity, finding no apparent adverse impacts, although mice of course can’t report side effects like headaches or mood changes.
Four to six weeks after they were taken off the drug, the mice could once more sire pups.
The team, which received funding from the National Institutes of Health and the Male Contraceptive Initiative, is working with a company called YourChoice Therapeutics to start human trials by the third or fourth quarter of 2022.
As a male this is a REVOLUTIONARY and an exciting prospect. The ability for males to more actively contribute, and take on the responsibility of contraception in relationships creates a more equal path for intimate partners moving forward. This also provides men the opportunity for further autonomy over their own bodies also.
A persistent question about future male contraceptive pills has been whether women will trust men to use them.
But surveys have shown that most women would in fact have faith in their partners, and significant numbers of men have indicated they would be open to the medication.
“Male contraceptives will add to the method mix, providing new options that allow men and women to contribute in whatever way they deem appropriate to contraceptive use,” argues the nonprofit Male Contraceptive Initiative, which engages in fundraising and advocacy.