Scientists have made a ‘breakthrough’ in drug testing which could mean they’re one step closer to the creation of a male contraceptive pill.
This will be music to the ears of many people, especially considering that the list seems almost endless when it comes to women’s options.
There’s the contraceptive pill (many types), the female condom, the diaphragm, two versions of the coil (hormonal and non-hormonal), an implant that’s inserted under the skin on the upper arm, an injection that lasts for three months, a contraceptive patch… and that’s certainly not a comprehensive list of what’s available.
For men it’s a choice between condoms or a vasectomy (an operation to permanently sterilise a male). Two options. TWO.
In many cases, this can result in pressure weighing heavily on women to ensure they’re taking care of contraception, in order to avoid any unwanted pregnancies.
But those days could soon be over because Scottish researchers have developed a robotic screening system that can quickly assess how different chemicals affect human sperm.
According to MailOnline, the robot speeds up the process of drug hunting ‘several thousand-fold’ and could be a ‘game changer’.
Now the scientists are looking for compounds that block sperm motility so it can’t reach the woman’s egg for fertilisation.
The team at the University of Dundee revealed that it is possible to find effective agents that halt sperm – now tests are being done to see whether these agents are suitable long-term methods that men could use.
Lead researcher Chris Barratt, professor of reproductive medicine at the School of Medicine, said: “This is a breakthrough in technology for the area. It allows us for the first time to assess in large numbers how compounds can affect sperm function.
“Surprisingly there has been no effective, reversible and widely available form of contraception developed for the male since the condom and, as such, the burden falls largely to the female.
“Finding an effective male contraceptive would be a major step in addressing that inequality.”
Speaking about the speed of the robot-run system in place, fellow lead researcher Dr Paul Andrews explained: “The conventional way to test drugs for contraceptive activity is prohibitively time-consuming.
“Through the hard work of the multi-disciplinary research team in Dundee, we have managed to develop a disruptive technology platform we hope will be a game changer.
“This new system speeds up the process of drug hunting several thousand-fold. By using live human sperm and examining their behaviour, or phenotype, in the presence of drugs and other chemicals, we hope to circumvent the need to second-guess which proteins are important for the cellular processes underlying sperm’s fertilisation capacity.”