A group of researchers took a giant step toward creating the compounds necessary for male birth control pills.
Pharmaceutical companies tested numerous male contraceptives, but flaws in their chemical formulas rendered them ineffective, especially if taken orally.
Previous experimental contraceptives also revolved around controlling sperm by adding testosterone, but this strategy isn't effective for 20 percent of men, according to Medical Daily.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota altered the compounds in two contraceptives made by pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb to eliminate crucial flaws.
The first compound was effective at inhibiting fertility but could not dissolve in water and, therefore, would not work in pill form.
In a statement, graduate student Jillian Kyzer explained the problem with that, saying,
No one wants to inject themselves with a needle once a day or once a week for most of their lives.
The second compound could dissolve in water but was unable to only target the correct genes. If genes unrelated to male fertility are affected, a patient could experience serious side effects.
The researchers were able to tweak these two compounds to make them more soluble and stable, meaning the chemicals can last longer in the body. These new compounds, however, were not able to only target receptors involved with male fertility.
The researchers said,
Unfortunately, both types of modifications also reduced the specificity of the compounds for the intended retinoic acid receptor-α target.
The team must, therefore, continue to modify the chemical formula of oral contraceptives to solve this problem.
Study leader Dr. Gunda Georg explained to Broadly the intended targeted receptor is used only for sperm production. Should the patient stop taking the pill, the receptor would become active and sperm production would resume as normal. If further tests prove successful, Georg believes animal testing could begin in just six months.
These findings were recently presented at the 251st American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition.
Citations: Scientists Get Closer To An Effective Male Birth Control Pill; New Compounds Show Promise (Medical Daily), The Male Birth Control Pill Is About to Come (So Your Boyfriend Can, Too) (Broadly)