Contraception for males that does not involve a condom is limited to vasectomy. Vasectomies are reversible in some instances but the surgical procedure is difficult and the results take time. Dr. Alberto Darszon Israel, emeritus researcher at the Institute of Biotechnology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and colleagues discovered the key that may make a reversible male pill a functional reality.
Israel and colleagues are the first to discover ion transport channels in the human sperm cell. The existence of ion transport channels produces a pathway for the exchange of chemicals that govern how fast sperm cells move and how successful the cells are in finding an egg cell. The ion exchange is a very rapid process that produces a definable electronic signature so the success of any trial drug can be easily monitored.
The researchers think that minor adjustments in the chemical distribution of ions in the sperm cell itself or in the sperm cell that becomes attached to an egg cell could prevent fertilization. The alteration of ion transport in sperm cells would produce the first workable male contraceptive that could be reversed. The concept has worked for other disease functions in the human body.
The researchers are testing a variety of simple compounds that are known to reduce or interrupt ion transport in hopes of finding the right combination that provides contraception without dangerous side effects. This is the first workable pathway to a reversible male contraceptive that has been shown to work. In the future, women may ask men if they have remembered to take their “pill” before engaging in sex.