Infertility gene discovery paves way for male contraceptive

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Researchers in Edinburgh have identified a key gene which is pivotal for the production of a hale and hearty sperm, and can pave way for a new type of non-hormonal birth control for men.

Scientists have discovered a gene called Katnal1 which plays a critical role by allowing sperm to mature in the testes.

According to the researchers, regulating this gene could prevent sperm from maturing, making them incapable of fertilising eggs and hence it can be used as a new male contraceptive without altering hormone levels.

One of the researchers said, “The gene, which is active in the testes, controls the final stages of sperm development. Blocking it would result in temporary infertility, without permanently damaging a man’s sperm-making machinery”.

“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," said the study author Lee Smith.

So far, several attempts have been made to make a male contraceptive based on blocking testosterone but they have run into difficulties and have caused adverse effects including acne, irritability and mood swings.

The study was published in the journal PLoS Genetics.