There Has Been A Major 'Breakthrough' In The Search For A Male Contraceptive Drug
The male contraceptive pill is now closer to being discovered than ever, thanks to a major breakthrough from researchers which will speed up the process "several thousand-fold".
So we have all been waiting for a time when there is at least an option for men to help on the contraception front that doesn't involve remembering a condom or having a major procedure, and now finally there has been a breakthrough.
Researchers at the University of Dundee have developed a "game-changing" fully automated robotic screening system that will rapidly test the effect of drugs and other chemicals on human sperm.
The tool will "precisely track the very fast movement of human sperm" which will allow effective measurement of drugs, something not available previously.
The team, lead by Professor Chris Barrett and Dr Paul Andrews have so far begun studying 13,000 previously approved and clinically tested drugs.
They are looking for drugs that will block sperm motility to create an effective contraceptive and the robotic system will help fast-track findings.
Today the team posted its first study in the journal eLife, which has shown it is possible using the new system to more quickly find compounds that halt sperm motility.
Now work needs to be done to see if the drugs can be used long term without side effects.
Chris Barratt, Professor of Reproductive Medicine in the School of Medicine, said, "This is a breakthrough in technology for the area.
"It allows us for the first time to assess in large numbers how compounds can affect sperm function.
"Surprisingly there has been no effective, reversible and widely available form of contraception developed for the male since the condom and, as such, the burden falls largely to the female.
"Finding an effective male contraceptive would be a major step in addressing that inequality."
Previously, in the hunt for a method of male contraception, efforts have been hampered for all sorts of reasons, from a poor understanding of human sperm biology, to a lack of studies that understand key functions of sperm and the absence of an efficient system to screen the effects of drugs, according to the university.
Dr Paul Andrews, who leads the National Phenotypic Screening Centre in Dundee said: "The conventional way to test drugs for contraceptive activity is prohibitively time-consuming.
"Through the hard work of the multi-disciplinary research team in Dundee, we have managed to develop a disruptive technology platform we hope will be a game changer.
"This new system speeds up the process of drug hunting several thousand-fold."
And while finding it isn't important for health, it is important to the women who have 89 million unintended pregnancies, according to the Guttmacher Institute, every year. Some of those pregnancies force women into poverty and pose health risks.
In terms of equality, it has to be said, being the only one in a relationship who can take the pill or have an injection has always been a bit irritating. Here's hoping that's set to change very soon.
Featured Image Credit: Pexels