May 18, 2017

Scientists found a way to re-think modern male birth control

Zappys Technology Solutions / Flickr cc

Scientists from UC Berkeley are re-thinking modern male birth control. As WIRED's Megan Molteni explains, to successfully fertilize an egg, sperm have to get to the egg and drill into it. So far, most contraceptives (like condoms) target the swimming — but what if the drilling could be prevented? These scientists think they have found a way.

Why this matters: Erwin Goldberg, a molecular biologist and sperm researcher at Northwestern University notes that this development could be groundbreaking, as "we haven't had anything new in the realm of male contraceptives since the introduction of the condom."

The findings, as detailed in WIRED:

  • In order to break through an egg's outer layers, sperm have to turn their tails into a powerful drill. Scientists call this the "power kick," and it's powered by one cell, called Catsper, that pumps calcium ions into the sperm's tail.
  • The researchers at Berkeley found that some chemical compounds are able attach to Catsper, blocking the channel where calcium is needed to pass for a power kick.
  • The study's main researcher and biophysicist Polina Lishko told WIRED: "This method is not only 10 times more effective than anything currently on the market, but it clearly prevents fertilization." And unlike most current contraceptives that work by preventing a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus, "There's no embryo at any point."
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