At last. More than 65 years after the birth control pill was invented, a male, hormone-free version could be tested on humans this year.
Invented in 1956, the contraceptive pill has not much evolved since its arrival on the market. For more than 60 years, it has required many menstruating people to take hormones regularly, and all the more or less debilitating side effects that come with it. For years, however, solutions have existed to enable men to take charge of their own contraception.
Apart from the condom (which remains the only effective protection against unwanted pregnancies AND STIs), some male birth control techniques are already available on the market. We think in particular of certain still experimental methods which play on the heat of the testicles, or of vasectomy, which in most cases is irreversible. In reality, the sector has often been neglected by researchers, contraception being still today often perceived as a “problem” feminine. But things could change soon.
A pill without hormones or side effects
At least that’s what this new male contraceptive pill developed by a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota promises. The product could revolutionize our approach to contraception, sinceit delivers no hormones, and a priori no side effects. To allow controlled and reversible sterility, the scientists injected a compound capable of blocking the RAR-α protein, responsible for integrating retinoic acid (vitamin A) into our cells.
After several clinical trials on mice, it seems that the operation works: male mice subjected to treatment for a month became sterile after a gradual drop in the number of their spermatozoa. Six weeks after stopping their pill, their reproductive abilities had returned to normal, with no significant adverse effects. Baptized GPHR-529, the compound in question would make it possible to obtain a clinical efficacy of 99%, almost as much as hormonal contraception.
In view of the first encouraging results, the first human tests could take place later this year, in order to determine more concretely the existence of possible side effects. Remember that if they are the ones who have aborted most of the experiments related to male hormonal contraception. They remain numerous and sometimes very debilitating on the side of the female contraceptive pill: between depression, weight gain, nausea and loss of libido, it was time for the mental load to balance out.