Weill Cornell Medicine investigators have developed an experimental contraceptive drug candidate that temporarily immobilizes sperm, preventing pregnancies in preclinical models. The findings, published in Nature yesterday, suggest that an on-demand male contraceptive is possible.

According to Dr. Jochen Buck and Dr. Lonny Levin, co-senior authors of the study and professors of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medicine, this discovery could revolutionize contraception. Condoms and vasectomies have been the only options for men thus far. Dr. Buck and Dr. Levin stumbled upon the male contraceptive discovery while studying a cellular signaling protein called soluble adenylyl cyclase (sAC). Mice genetically engineered to lack sAC were found to be infertile, and the team discovered that a sAC inhibitor called TDI-11861 immobilizes sperm in male mice for up to two and a half hours. The effects persist in the female reproductive tract after mating, and treated mice were unable to impregnate females despite 52 different mating attempts.

Dr. Lonny Levin and Dr. Jochen Buck. Image: Weill Cornell Medicine

The inhibitor works quickly, taking only 30 minutes to an hour, and its effects wear off within hours. This would allow men to make day-to-day decisions about their fertility. The team is already working on making sAC inhibitors better suited for use in humans and is preparing to repeat their experiments in a different preclinical model. If drug development and clinical trials are successful, Dr. Levin hopes to see “the male pill” become a reality.

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