Male birth control pill that “turns off sperm” now closer to becoming reality, say researchers

American researchers claim they are coming closer to a working birth control pill for men. In a Daily Mail article, they reported that the contraceptive compound EP055 temporarily turned off the swimming ability of sperm in male monkeys.

They tested the compound on male macaques. Per their findings, the immobilizing effect took place 30 hours after infusion. Immobile sperm will have a very hard time reaching the egg for fertilization. None of the lab animals displayed negative side effects.

Researchers theorize that EP055 did not alter the male hormones of the monkeys. The compound itself is not a hormone, either. In comparison, most female birth control pills contain estrogen and progesterone. These are female hormones that can cause side effects like moodiness, nausea, and obesity.

Furthermore, the researchers reported that EP055 treatment is reversible. They observed that the monkeys’ sperm regained their normal movement in eighteen days. There are two widely-available forms of contraception available for men. Condoms are prone to failure if worn in the wrong way, while vasectomies are pricey and hard to undo. (Related: The FDA has restricted the sale of implanted birth control Essure after women claim the device made them suicidal.)

Male contraceptive slows down sperm movement for three weeks

In their experiment, the University of North Carolina (UNC) researchers infused four male macaques with initial doses of EP055. After allowing the animals to recover, they administered a second, larger dose for the test subjects. They published the results of their experiment in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

EP055 works by attaching itself to an important protein, EPPIN, that is found on the surface of a sperm cell. It only takes less than six hours for affected cells to slow down by 20 percent. The sperm start recovering mobility three days after infusion.

Study author Mary Zelinski reported that the lab animals recovered within three weeks, which suggested the treatment could be reversed. She and her co-researchers are still testing the pill form of the compound. They will conduct another animal study that will test its effectiveness as a contraceptive.

The UNCH researchers cannot say when EP055 will become available for human use.

Another study warns female contraceptives increase risks of ischemic strokes

As mentioned earlier, female contraceptives have a number of negative side effects. A March 2018 study added a new complication: Women who take oral contraceptives run the risk of ischemic strokes. An ischemic stroke occurs when an artery that supplies blood to the brain gets clogged up.

“[Among] women with other stroke risk factors, the risk seems higher and, in most cases, oral contraceptive use should be discouraged,” warned the Loyola University Chicago (Loyola) study that came across this finding.

The risk is not limited to just birth control pills. Patches and jabs can increase the chances of a blood clot that can clog up a vital artery. The researchers made sure to point out that this mainly applies to women who smoke, suffer from high blood pressure, and exhibit or indulge in risk factors for clotting. The risk for healthy women is lower.

Furthermore, the Loyola study clarifies that female contraceptives do not affect the chances of hemorrhagic strokes. That type of stroke stems from bleeding in the brain instead of blood vessel blockages.

Most women have used at least one type of hormonal contraceptives during their lifetimes. Right now, nearly 37 percent of the women in the U.S. are on one form of birth control or another.

Strokes are one of the leading killers for women in the U.S. Ever year, the number of women who suffer a stroke exceed their male counterparts by 55,000.

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