New Male Birth Contraceptive Pill Shows Positive Results in the Lab

The contraceptive revolution has reached men. We'll tell you about a new discovery that could change sexual relations.
New Male Birth Contraceptive Pill Shows Positive Results in the Lab
Leonardo Biolatto

Written and verified by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 07 March, 2023

The search for a male contraceptive pill as a birth control option isn’t new. However, it wasn’t easy to come up with a successful result in laboratories. At least until now.

Buck and Levin, two professors of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, published a recent scientific paper in Nature and opened the door to the discovery. Experimenting with mice, they managed to immobilize spermatozoa for 3 hours, preventing the animals from becoming fertile with their sexual partners during that period.

Would it be possible to advance to a male contraceptive pill that would work in humans? That is what the specialists envision as the future.

If the mouse trials can be replicated in humans with the same degree of efficacy, then this could be the male contraceptive approach we have been looking for.

~ Allan Pacey, Professor of Andrology ~

What was the study about?

Since the advent of female hormonal contraceptives, the field of human contraception in women has grown dramatically. Both in terms of knowledge and in terms of products available in pharmacies. However, the same wasn’t true for men.

In response to this concern, Buck and Levin began to look for valid alternatives that avoided hormonal contraception. That is, they wanted a reliable method for males, but without having to resort to testosterone blockade.

Knowing of the existence of a protein called soluble adenylyl cyclase, or sAC, Levin asked Buck to find it and isolate it in the lab. Buck, of course, succeeded. SAC is critical for sperm maturation and for getting sperm to have the proper motility to reach the egg and fertilize.

In the Cornell lab, when mice were genetically engineered to be deficient in this protein, they became infertile. But there was still more to come. In 2018, Melanie Balbach joined as a postdoctoral student there and blocked sAC in mice with a special substance. The result was that the animals’ sperm couldn’t propel themselves forward.

Thus appeared the origin of what would today be the first non-hormonal, on-demand male contraceptive pill. Its technical name is TDI-11861.

A laboratory.
For the time being, the advances are laboratory-based and there are no human trials.

Testing with mice

The report published in Nature reports on the demonstration of TDI-11861. A series of male mice were medicated with the substance and another group functioned as a control, medicated with a placebo.

The treated animals made 52 attempts to mate with female mice and failed to impregnate them for 3 hours. On the contrary, the group medicated with placebo fertilized about 30% of the females.

After 24 hours, the sperm recovered their mobility. And from the time the substance is applied, the time delay to initial sperm immobilization is 30 minutes.

The approach described here, to eliminate a key enzyme in sperm that is critical for sperm movement, is a novel idea. The fact that it can act and reverse itself quickly is exciting.

~ Allan Pacey ~

This male birth control pill isn’t the only one

As we discussed, the search for a male birth control pill is part of decades of research to find a suitable method for males. The novelty of this recent discovery is the non-hormonal route.

However, there’s already an option that is based on the use of hormones. It’s the commercial brand Nestorone ®. It is a synthetic progestin that would be used as a gel, and applied to the shoulders. After its absorption, it would block sperm production.

The difficulties with this gel lie in the need to use it constantly in order to achieve the effect and the fact that, if you stop taking it, it loses its effectiveness in the short, medium and long term. There are also doubts about its hormonal consequences, since it could affect other functioning mechanisms of the body.

In spite of this, Nestorone® is already in human trials. Perhaps, in a short time we’ll have news about its governmental approval for commercialization. After past failures with male pills that had a high rate of adverse effects, a new era seems to be upon us.

A condom.
Condoms and vasectomy seem to be the only options for men, but that may change.

A male contraceptive pill is a paradigm shift

The World Health Organization (WHO), states that the currently available male contraceptive methods are a vasectomy and condoms. The other methods are all for women and, of course, the only one capable of preventing sexually transmitted infections is the condom.

The female contraceptive revolution changed the world. We are still experiencing today the effects of the freedom women gained when they were finally able to decide when to conceive.

The existence of a male contraceptive pill with the characteristics of TDI-11861 is another revolution. If we think about it carefully, this is an on-demand and reversible method. The male could take the pill before having sex and regain his fertility the next day.

In social terms, we are witnessing a new paradigm on the horizon. Human trials are just around the corner and commercial development to make this option available is already a possible future.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Balbach, M., Rossetti, T., Ferreira, J., Ghanem, L., Ritagliati, C., Myers, R. W., … & Levin, L. R. (2023). On-demand male contraception via acute inhibition of soluble adenylyl cyclase. Nature Communications14(1), 637.
  • Kjærgaard, N., Kjærgaard, B., & Lauritsen, J. G. (1988). Prazosin, an adrenergic blocking agent inadequate as male contraceptive pill. Contraception37(6), 621-629.
  • Kumar, N., Fagart, J., Liere, P., Mitchell, S. J., Knibb, A. R., Petit-Topin, I., … & Sitruk-Ware, R. (2017). Nestorone® as a novel progestin for nonoral contraception: structure-activity relationships and brain metabolism studies. Endocrinology158(1), 170-182.
  • Lue, Y., Swerdloff, R., Pak, Y., Nguyen, B. T., Yuen, F., Liu, P. Y., … & Wang, C. (2023). Male contraception development: monitoring effective spermatogenesis suppression utilizing a user-controlled sperm concentration test compared with standard semen analysis. Fertility and Sterility119(2), 208-217.
  • Olivera, M., Ruiz, T., Tarazona, A., & Giraldo, C. (2006). El espermatozoide, desde la eyaculación hasta la fertilización. Revista Colombiana de Ciencias Pecuarias19(4), 426-436.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.