Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Advanced Search

Search for

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook



Non-hormonal male pill successful in animal studies

20 August 2012

By Daryl Ramai

Appeared in BioNews 669

Scientists may now be one step closer to producing the first non-hormonal, male contraceptive pill after a successful animal study.

The study, published in the journal Cell, claims that a compound called JQ1 is able to disrupt spermatogenesis - the maturing of sperm - in male mice as it crosses from the blood to the testis.

'Our findings demonstrate that, when given to rodents, this compound produces a rapid and reversible decrease in sperm count and mobility with profound effects on fertility', said Dr James Bradner, senior author of the study at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, USA.

The researchers showed that JQ1 works by inhibiting BRDT, a protein critical to fertility that instructs germ cells to grow into sperm cells. The result is a decrease in the number and quality of sperm, without any affect to the hormonal system and libido.

'There is no effect on the mouse's mojo. The animals exhibit the normal sexual behaviours and frequency of copulation', said Dr Bradner.

The study also showed that when the drug treatment was discontinued, sperm production and fertility was restored to normal levels.

'To date, most of the trials have attempted to stop sperm production by manipulating the male hormone testosterone through the use of injections or implants', explained Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield.

However, hormone treatments can have serious side effects. 'Non-hormonal targets are urgently needed', said Dr Bradner.

Professor William Bremner, of the University of Washington in Seattle and who was not involved in the study, told ABC News that since the development of condoms centuries ago, there has not been a new reversible contraceptive for men.

Though the drug offers promising evidence for the development of an oral pill for human contraception, Dr Bradner and colleagues are aware of the challenges in developing a new product for human use.

Professor Robert McLachlan, Director of Clinical Research at Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, Australia said further studies in animals would need to be performed before it could be trialled in men.

Talking to ABC News, he said: 'The development of a potential contraceptive is a very long and arduous process leading up to the first human studies. It will be fascinating to see how the drug evolves, but we know that such pipelines may require 15 years of evaluation and there are many potential pitfalls along the journey'.

EurekAlert! (press release) | 16 August 2012
New Scientist | 16 August 2012
BBC News | 17 August 2012
ABC News | 17 August 2012
Cell | 17 August 2012


09 December 2013 - by Dr Katie Howe 
A reversible way of stopping sperm cells being ejaculated has been identified in mice. The research could pave the way for the development of a male contraceptive pill...
01 October 2012 - by Daryl Ramai 
Adding a missing protein to infertile human sperm gives the sperm the ability to successfully fertilize an egg, a lab-based study reports...

02 July 2012 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
Researchers in the USA have claimed to have created a male contraceptive gel applied directly to the skin that can effectively reduce a man's sperm count with few side effects...
28 May 2012 - by Dr Rosie Gilchrist 
A non-hormonal male contraceptive pill could be developed by blocking a newly identified gene involved in the final stages of sperm production, according to scientists...
07 December 2009 - by Heidi Colleran 
A team of scientists has taken male fertility research a major step forward, with the discovery of how androgenic hormones regulate the production of sperm in the testes of mice. The breakthrough, reported in the journal The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), may lead to greater understanding and control of male fertility, including the development of a male contraceptive 'pill', and treatments for infertility....
27 July 2009 - by Antony Blackburn-Starza 
Scientists have discovered a genetic mutation that could path the way for the development of new infertility treatments and also a male contraceptive pill. The mutation affects a protein called PLC zeta found in sperm which is responsible for activating an egg in the early stages of fertilisation. The study revealed that in cases where this protein was deactivated the sperm was not able to fertilise the egg....
10 May 2009 - by Heidi Colleran 
By Heidi Colleran: Scientists in China have completed the largest ever trial to assess the effectiveness of a male hormonal contraceptive, which showed it achieved a 99 per cent success rate over the two and a half years of the study. Researchers at the National Research Institute for Family Planning...

Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust


Public Conference
8 December 2017

Speakers include

Professor Azim Surani

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Sue Avery

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Dr Andy Greenfield

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Henry Malter

Vivienne Parry

Dr Helen O'Neill

Dr César Palacios-González

Philippa Taylor

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross

Sandy Starr


Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation