A male birth control pill is one step closer to becoming a reality. Researchers have tested a hormone free drug that rendered mice infertile by causing the testes to “forget” how to make mature sperm.
This drug was originally being developed by Dr. James Bradner of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, to keep cancer cells from “remembering” how to multiply.
During the course of the development of this cancer drug, it was discovered that the drug also had an effect on a protein that was specific to the testes, (called BRTD.)
Dr. Bradner contacted Martin Matzuk of Baylor College of Medicine, who specializes in reproductive health. Matzuk tested the drug in the lab on mice, and discovered that the mice produced fewer sperm, and the sperm that did exist were poor “swimmers.”
Within about two weeks time of being taken off the drug, sperm count and sperm quality of the test mice returned to normal. There was also no change in “sex drive,” or procreation rate of the mice.
This drug will need to be tested in human trials next, and then go through the FDA approval process, so it will be years before it is available to the general public. However, this is the first drug not reliant on hormonal disruption, and that is a very big breakthrough. This drug is different because it is the first to breach the blood/testes barrier, which up to this point has been a “firewall.”
I am thrilled to hear that men might be able to participate actively and effectively in birth control, which up to this point has been largely a female responsibility. The negative health repercussions that women must face due to the hormonal changes that the female pill creates are a price we women have had to pay for reliable birth control.
However, I do have some grossly over generalized anthropological questions. As a stereotype, men can’t be bothered to put the seat down after they pee… are women going to entrust that they can be bothered to take a pill everyday, without fail? Does that mean women can stop messing with their own hormones (remember, the man pill is not hormone based,) and turn that over completely to their partner? Will men want to be bothered with taking a pill everyday?
If men, especially teenaged men, are comfortable with being in charge of their own birth control, I can see this as a huge step to reducing teenage pregnancies. Many girls don’t go on the pill because they can’t get access to it, and they don’t want their parents to know they are having sex.
It is a double standard that fathers are generally OK with their sons having sex, and will buy condoms for them, but they would never take their daughters to a clinic or doctor to get the pill for them at the same age. And so, most teens rely on condoms, which means they probably aren’t relying on anything. Condoms require discipline and forethought, two things generally missing from teenage sex.
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