A contraceptive pill for men has moved one step closer after Australian researchers successfully made male mice infertile, according to a study published Tuesday.
Monash University scientists genetically modified mice to block two proteins found on the smooth muscle cells which are essential for sperm to travel through the animal's reproductive organs.
The result was that even though the mice had sex normally and were otherwise healthy, they were infertile, researcher Sabatino Ventura from Melbourne's Monash University said.
"We've shown that simultaneously disrupting the two proteins that control the transport of sperm during ejaculation causes complete male infertility," Ventura said.
"But without affecting the long-term viability of sperm or the sexual or general health of males. The sperm is effectively there, but the muscle is just not receiving the chemical message to move it."
Ventura, who collaborated with researchers from the University of Melbourne and Britain's University of Leicester on the study, now wants to replicate the genetic process chemically, and believes a male contraceptive pill could be possible in about 10 years.
"The next step is to look at developing an oral male contraceptive drug, which is effective, safe, and readily reversible," he said.
The findings, published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, show that the absence of two proteins in mice caused infertility, without affecting the long-term viability of the sperm, sexual behaviour, or the health of the animals.
Previous attempts to develop a male contraceptive pill have focused on hormones or producing dysfunctional sperm -- methods which can interfere with male sexual activity and cause long-term and potentially irreversible effects on fertility.
Ventura said because his approach was non-hormonal and did not impact on the development of sperm, a drug which switched off the two proteins should not have any long-term side effects and could be reversed once the man stopped taking it.
"It would block the transport of sperm and then if you're a young guy and you get to the stage where you wanted to start fathering children, you stop taking it and everything should be okay," he told broadcaster ABC.
"It would be like an oral medication probably taken daily just like the female contraceptive pill."
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Pills work best if they're taken at the same time each day -- which is often difficult for women to remember.<br> (Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/duck/" target="_hplink">Flickr/canardo</a>)
It's not as common as it once was, but antibiotics can occasionally affect the effectiveness of your birth control pill. Ask the doctor who prescribed the antibiotics about any potential interactions.<br> (Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/sheeppurple/" target="_hplink">Flickr/Sheep purple</a>)
Talking About It With Partner
While it can be difficult with a new partner, avoiding the subject of birth control won't make it go away, particularly if you've already started having sex. Get past sexual histories, concerns and preferred methods out in the open as soon as possible to make this work for everyone.
Buying The Wrong Condoms
Besides also being more comfortable for both partners, ensuring you have the right condom size can mean it's less slightly to break (if it's too tight) or slip off (if it's too small).<br> (Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/robertelyov/" target="_hplink">Flickr/robertelyov</a>)
Be Open To Change
The Pill isn't the be all and end all of birth control options - investigate alternatives if you're not all that into the Pill, or if it's giving you some adverse side effects. Options like the intrauterine device (IUD) shown here are quite common, and could even be more effective.<br> (Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/stickypearls/" target="_hplink">Flickr/+mara</a>)
Forgetting to take their Pill is more common than most women would like to admit, and it can certainly impact the risk of pregnancy. Missing one day is generally believed to be fine, but you should probably opt for back-up for a week after just in case.<br> (Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/shimrit/" target="_hplink">Flickr/Shemer</a>)
Adding On Protection
Similarly, the first week -- and more cautious people say even month -- of starting the Pill, use a condom, as the hormones won't yet be as effective as they could be. <br>(Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jennyleesilver/" target="_hplink">Flickr/Jenny Lee Silver</a>)
Using The Wrong Tools
Oil-based lubricants shouldn't be used with condoms, as they can break down the latex and therefore increase the risk of pregnancy. Always opt for water-based lubricants.
You Take It Out Too Soon
For birth control methods like sponges and diaphragms that require removal, women can make the mistake of taking them out too soon -- each should be removed six hours after sex, but shouldn't be kept in any longer than 30 hours.<br> (Photo courtesy of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ideonexus/" target="_hplink">Flickr/Ryan Somma</a>)