An exciting discovery related to male reproduction was recently highlighted in the journal Science, one of the world’s highest profile scientific journals. Investigators identified a novel progesteronereceptor in sperm which allows sperm tails to move efficiently to penetrate (and fertilize) an egg.
Any time one of the high profile “glamour” journals (a term used at a recent American Society of Andrology meeting in reference toScience, Nature, and Cell – three of the most prestigious scientific journals) highlights male reproduction, I get excited. But in addition to learning more about sperm physiology, the research provides an opportunity for the development of another form of male contraception.
It is estimated that nearly half of all pregnancies worldwide are unplanned which can have negative economic and health impacts. It is estimated that unintended pregnancies in the US cost over $15 billion. While a myriad of contraceptive options are available for women (pill, implants, IUD, etc), few options exist for men despite the fact that over 25% of couples are using male contraceptive methods. To date, male options are largely limited to condoms and vasectomy.
Scientists have explored hormonal and non-hormonal methods of male contraception with the hope of developing a “male pill.” Hormonal methods (usually testosterone or other androgens) suppress the body’s ability to produce sperm. Non-hormonal methods primarily target different proteins or processes involved in sperm production. While one or more of these options may one day lead to the “male pill,” we are still many years away.
The potential of a target that prevents fertilization of the egg by the sperm itself, rather than sperm or egg development, may allow for a novel contraceptive method. It will be exciting to see where the research leads.
About Our Author
Dr. Michael Eisenberg is a board certified urologist who received his medical degree from Yale University School of Medicine. After receiving urology training at the University of California San Francisco, he completed specialty training in male reproductive medicine and microsurgery at Baylor College of Medicine.
Dr. Eisenberg currently is in the Department of Urology and Obstetrics/Gynecology at the Stanford University School of Medicine where he directs the Male Reproductive Medicine and Surgery Program.
Dr. Eisenberg serves as an associate editor and on the editorial boards of several leading infertility and endocrinology journals. He is highly regarded both nationally and internationally and has delivered invited lectures all over the globe. His clinical and research interests include the intersection between a man’s overall, sexual, and reproductive health. His group seeks to understand the implications of impaired sperm production to a man’s health as well as methods to improve testosterone and sperm production.