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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."

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology

Scoop: Google is investigating the actions of another top AI ethicist

Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Google is investigating recent actions by Margaret Mitchell, who helps lead the company's ethical AI team, Axios has confirmed.

Why it matters: The probe follows the forced exit of Timnit Gebru, a prominent researcher also on the AI ethics team at Google whose ouster ignited a firestorm among Google employees.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Joe Biden's COVID-19 bubble

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The incoming administration is planning extraordinary steps to protect its most prized commodity, Joe Biden, including requiring daily employee COVID tests and N95 masks at all times, according to new guidance sent to some incoming employees Tuesday.

Why it matters: The president-elect is 78 years old and therefore a high risk for the virus and its worst effects, despite having received the vaccine. While President Trump's team was nonchalant about COVID protocols — leading to several super-spreader episodes — the new rules will apply to all White House aides in "high proximity to principals."

Justice Department drops insider trading inquiry against Sen. Richard Burr

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) walking through the Senate Subway in the U.S. Capitol in December 2020. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Department of Justice told Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) on Tuesday that it will not move forward with insider trading charges against him.

Why it matters: The decision, first reported by the New York Times, effectively ends the DOJ's investigation into the senator's stock sell-off that occurred after multiple lawmakers were briefed about the coronavirus' potential economic toll. Burr subsequently stepped down as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.