Male Birth Control Pill: Science Takes Major Step, But Will Men Actually Take It?

A recent study finds an experimental medication rendered male mice temporarily infertile.
Science takes one step closer to a marketable birth control pill for men. (Photo: Mark Harmell/Getty Images)
Aug 19, 2012· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

The Los Angeles Times reports that according to a recent study, an experimental cancer drug that was being tested on mice may also serve as a hormone-free contraceptive pill for human men.

The study, which was published on Friday’s edition of Cell, found that a molecule called JQ₁ successfully inhibited the production of sperm in laboratory mice. The mice were rendered infertile and stayed that way for as long as they were injected with the drug. However, the effects of JQ₁ were also found to be easily reversible; once the mice stopped receiving daily dosages, their sperm levels returned to normal. They were then able to fertilize their female partners and produce healthy offspring.

Though the Times reports no testing has been done on humans yet, doctors associated with the study believe it’s the beginning of a new era in male birth control. According to lead researcher, Dr. Martin Matzuk of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, "We envision that our discoveries can be completely translated to men, providing a novel and efficacious strategy for a male contraceptive.”

This latest development seems to echo a push in the industry to devise new contraceptive methods made specifically for men. MSNBC reports that just last May, a Scottish study was released, which identified a singular gene responsible for producing sperm in mice. This particular gene, named Katnal1, was found to be the deciding factor in sperm maturation. When researchers inhibited it pharmaceutically, the mice still produced sperm, but in a quality that was too immature and incapable of fertilizing eggs. Just as with JQ₁, the infertility effects were reversible.

Though these studies are encouraging, the real question remains: will men actually take a birth control pill? The Times believes the answer is yes. According to the paper, about one-third of couples currently rely on some form of male-centric birth control― such as condoms or sterilization― demonstrating a willingness on their part to take responsibility for pregnancy prevention. Some even argue men would more willing to take a pill; it’s less obtrusive than a condom, and certainly less invasive than a vasectomy.

Would you feel comfortable relying on your male partner to take his birth control pill every day? Is this an improvement over other contraceptive methods? Leave your thoughts in the comments.