This new form of male contraception was covered at the American Chemical Society (ACS) spring 2022 meeting. The hybrid event took place at the end of March and may have changed the contraceptive conversation as we know it.
The male contraception conundrum
There have been several attempts to develop these pills in the past, to no avail. A male contraceptive pill has been in development for over 60 years, with endocrinologist Gregory Pincus making the first attempt in 1957.
In the 1970s, the National Institutes of Health attempted to develop an injectable male birth control option. Although the research and trials showed that testosterone could be an effective male birth control method, the adverse side effects brought development to a screeching halt. Another method that is in development is the testicle bath.
Either way, the release date of these products remains a mystery.
A promising non-hormonal pill is in development
The March meeting of the ACS showed that there had been a progression in the field, as well as an intent to move forward.
This hybrid meeting included over 12,000 presentations from a wide array of scientists on various topics—including male contraception.
On this issue, scientists assert that they have a non-hormonal male contraceptive that prevents pregnancy in mice, without any obvious side effects. This is highly encouraging, given that side effects have been one of the main issues preventing previous male birth control pill attempts from progressing.
In particular, a compound called YCT529 was discovered, which “inhibited RAR-α almost 500 times more potently than it did RAR-β and -γ.” When given to mice for four weeks orally, YCT529 reduced the sperm count by 99% without any observable side effects.
Moreover, once the mice stopped taking the medication, the mice were able to father pups within 4-6 weeks.
Human clinical trials set to start this year
Now that they have completed the preliminary research, human clinical trials are set to begin during the third or fourth quarter of 2022.
However, just because they had success with rodents doesn’t mean it will translate to the human population. Since it can be challenging to know how these compounds will work in humans, they are also looking into other compound options. To do so, researchers are “both modifying the existing compound and testing new structural scaffolds,” according to a press release by the ACS.
The lack of funding could become a significant roadblock. There are presently no pharmaceutical companies interested in funding male birth control pills. Rather, organizations such as Male Contraceptive Initiative, its Executive Director Heather Vahdat, other non-profits, and the federal government are providing funding to continue with research and development.
Nevertheless, valiant efforts are being made to bring male birth control to fruition soon.