There are a number of birth control options on the market, all of which use various methods to prevent pregnancy with various degrees of success. One of the most popular (and the most effective) methods is “the pill” – a combined oral contraceptive pill that stops ovulation by using synthetic versions of estrogen and progesterone. Due to the popularity and effectiveness of the female contraceptive pill, there has been a lot of interest in producing an equally effective pill for men.
But, how close are we to finding male birth control pills?
Experiments With Testosterone
Initial studies focused on testosterone, as this hormone plays a vital role in male fertility and it’s suspected that certain doses of testosterone can cause infertility. The downside of this treatment is that it can lead to some serious side effects like a decrease in “good” cholesterol and weight gain. More than that, this solution isn’t effective in around 20% of men.
Ouabain as a Viable Candidate
Some studies suggest that ouabain – a potentially toxic substance – could be effective as a male contraceptive. The reason why this may be the case is its effect on Na/K-ATPases – enzymes found in our cell membranes. These enzymes play an important role in male fertility, as they are present in adult sperm cells.
However, as a subunit of Na/K-ATPase is also found in our heart tissue, ouabain could block these units and lead to serious heart damage. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal chemistry successfully modified this substance and created a compound that could single out Na/K-ATPase subunit in sperm cells, without damaging the heart tissue of adult rats.
The Final Word
Although many advances have been made, we still have a lot of research ahead of us to come up with male birth control pills. The studies of ouabain show a lot of promise, and it’s likely that a modified version of this compound will be further researched and tested as a potential candidate.