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Researchers a Step Closer to Male Contraceptive Pill

Protein found to decrease sperm production (Oct. 8)

Monash University in Victoria, Australia, reported on October 8 that new insights into the “swimming skills” of sperm have shed light on male infertility, which affects one in 20 men, and could provide a new avenue to the development of a male contraceptive pill.

In a study published in PLoS Genetics, researchers have shown how a protein called RABL2 affects the length of sperm tails, crippling their motility, and decreases sperm production.

In laboratory tests, the team found that a mutation in RABL2 resulted in sperm tails that were 17% shorter than normal. Dysfunctional RABL2 also negatively affected sperm production, resulting in a 50% decrease.

Lead author and PhD student Jennifer Lo said that as mutations in RABL2 decrease the sperm count and the swimming ability of sperm, it may be possible to inhibit this protein in a future male pill. However, because RABL2 is also found in other tissues, such as the brain, kidney, and liver, an inhibitor specific to the testes would need to be developed.

For more information, visit the Monash University Web site.

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