'Bionanotechnology from Theory to Practice' is a short online, course providing an interdisciplinary and up-to-date overview of the rapidly developing area of bionanotechnology
Page URL: https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_93602

Sperm-production gene could hold the key to developing a male pill

28 May 2012
Appeared in BioNews 658

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.

The gene, Katnal1, produces a protein, called katanin, which is active in Sertoli cells, a specialised population of cells in the testes that provide growing sperm with nutrients. The researchers, from the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health in Edinburgh, UK, found that it is vital for male fertility in mice.

The study, published in PLoS Genetics, showed that in mice without active Katnal1, sperm cells severed contact with Sertoli cells before they were fully mature, making the mice infertile.

'If we can find a way to target this gene in the testes, we could potentially develop a non-hormonal contraceptive', said study author Dr Lee Smith.

Dr Allan Pacey, a senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield, told the BBC that the key to developing such non-hormonal male contraceptives is to target only the genes that are involved in sperm production. Otherwise, he said the drug could have 'unwanted side effects on other cells and tissues in the body and may even be dangerous'.

Dr Smith added: 'The important thing is that the effects of such a drug would be reversible because Katnal1 only affects sperm cells in the later stages of development, so it would not hinder the early stages of sperm production and the overall ability to produce sperm'.

A separate study, published in the same journal, linked a different form of the katanin protein to male fertility. This team found sperm need it to swim properly and that without it, male mice are infertile.

'The take home message from these two studies is if we can better understand katanin we could target this for non-hormone male contraceptive development and we can look for new therapies for male infertility', said lead author Dr Liza O'Donnell, of Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research in Victoria, Australia.

22 May 2017 - by Rachel Reeves 
Two plant chemicals used in folk medicines block a key step in fertilisation, and may provide a potential alternative to hormone-based contraceptives...
29 July 2013 - by Clara Salice 
The 'female' X chromosome has been shown to contain several genes that may be involved in sperm production...
15 October 2012 - by Chris Baldacci 
A gene mutation has been associated with sperm motility and production, offering new insights into male infertility....
1 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...
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...
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...
7 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....
26 January 2009 - by Dr Charlotte Maden 
Pollutants have been found in British rivers that could account for the decreasing male fertility in the country. A study that examined wild male fish in rivers developing female reproductive organs found a link between this and the presence of 'anti-androgens' in the water. These drugs, used...
27 May 2003 - by BioNews 
Canadian scientists have identified a mouse gene involved in sperm development, which they say could help research into human male infertility and into contraception. The researchers, based at the University of Toronto, found that mice lacking the Fkbp6 gene had no spermatids, the cells that grow into sperm. The team...
30 September 2002 - by BioNews 
Long term use of the pill may actually cause women to become pregnant more quickly when they stop taking it, contrary to previously held beliefs that it caused a reduction in fertility. A new study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, analysed the pregnancy records of 8500 women. In total...
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.