The Fertility Show, Manchester Central, 24-25 March 2018
Page URL:

Hormonal 'on/off switch' may lead to male 'pill' and infertility cure

7 December 2009
Appeared in BioNews 537

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.

Androgenic hormones, or androgens, are essential for male fertility because they influence normal sperm development. However, these hormones are mediated through cells in the testes, and there are receptors for androgens in a number of different cell types, so scientists have been unclear as to which ones are most important for sperm production. The research team, from the Centre for Reproductive Biology (CRB) at The Queen's Medical Research Institute (QMRI) in Edinburgh and the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia, studied two groups of mice, one of which was missing a gene that codes for androgen hormone receptors. The team discovered that the mice without receptors in a particular cell (peritubular myoid cells) were infertile, producing significantly fewer sperm than the control group.

While the study was carried out in mice, the implications for research in human males are significant. As Dr Michelle Welsh from the CRB at QMRI, a co-author on the study, pointed out, it 'provides a new opportunity to identify how androgens control sperm production, which could provide new insight for the development of new treatments for male infertility and perhaps new male contraceptives'.

Dr Gerald Weissmann, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, has also hailed the long-term implications of the study, stating: 'Although 'the pill' arguably has been liberating for women since its development in the 1960s, a similar birth control drug for men has been elusive... Not only does this research pinpoint androgenic hormones and their cellular receptors as prime targets for the development of new birth control drugs, but it promises to speed the development of new agents to boost sperm production.'

Androgen action via testicular peritubular myoid cells is essential for male fertility
The FASEB Journal |  19 August 2009
Birth Control Pill for Men — Really? |  2 December 2009
'The pill' for him: Scientists find a hormonal on-and-off switch for male fertility
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal |  30 November 2009
20 August 2012 - by Daryl Ramai 
Scientists may now be one step closer to producing the first non-hormonal, male contraceptive pill after a successful animal study...
2 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...
31 August 2010 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
Research carried out at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine suggests that the packaging of DNA affects the production of sperm and could explain some cases of male infertility....
9 August 2010 - by Victoria Kay 
A chemical found in some common plastics may be linked to reduced fertility in men, according to a new report. A US study found that men with the highest levels of Bisphenol A (BPA) in their urine had a sperm count 23 per cent lower on average than those with the lowest BPA levels...
5 July 2010 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
Scientists have discovered a genetic mutation that may make some women less likely to respond to the ovarian stimulating hormones used in fertility treatment. Dr Maria Lalioti and her colleagues from Yale University Medical School, US, reported their findings at the 26th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome last week...
17 May 2010 - by Dr Jay Stone 
Research into using ultrasound as a male contraceptive was given a financial boost last week after researchers secured a $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation...
Log in to add a Comment.

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

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.