The discovery that the gene Katnal1 plays an important role in the production of healthy sperm may form the basis for an effective male contraceptive in the near future, the team from Edinburgh says. The research team was looking into the causes of male infertility, and found the gene. Experimentation on mice shows that Katnal1 is an essential part of the reproductive system.
A drug that interrupts Katnal1 temporarily could prove to be a fantastic reversible male contraceptive, the researchers who published their study in PLos Genetics said. Now, men have few birth control options besides condoms and a vasectomy. And, the first may be too temporary, while the second is certainly very permanent. Could this new revelation lead to a revolution in male contraception? Many men would definitely appreciate that! The scientists explained that they were experimenting with mice, randomly altering their genetic code to see which changes rendered the male mice infertile.
This process led them to Katnal1, which contains the blueprints for a protein that plays an essential role in the production of healthy sperm. Without this protein, men still produce sperm, but they are not fully formed and cannot impregnate a female. The "only" task left is to find out how this all works in humans. Mouse genetics are relatively similar to humans, but obviously not identical at all.
One of the study's researchers Dr Lee Smith pointed out: "If we can find a way to target this gene in the testes, we could potentially develop a non-hormonal contraceptive. The important thing is that the effects of such a drug would be reversible because Katnal1 only affects sperm cells in the later stages of development, so it would not hinder the early stages of sperm production and the overall ability to produce sperm."