YAHOO NEWS – It’s been more than 50 years since the first oral birth control pill was available to women and, since then, there hasn’t been a similar product on the market for men. However, science is making huge strides toward changing that.
Researchers in the U.K. have developed a compound that temporarily deactivates a protein that puts the “wiggle” into a sperm’s tail, the Telegraph reports. As a result, sperm aren’t able to swim and therefore can’t fertilize a woman’s egg, causing a pregnancy.
“The results are startling — and almost instant. When you take healthy sperm and add our compound, within a few minutes the sperm basically cannot move,” Lead researcher John Howl, PhD, a professor of molecular pharmacology at the University of Wolverhampton in England, said.
Howl tells Yahoo Beauty that he and his colleagues were “very surprised” at many stages of their research. “Sperm are very difficult targets for conventional drugs, so we were delighted to discover that cell penetrating peptides (CPPs) can target different compartments within sperm,” he says. Howl says he was also surprised that they were able to manipulate sperm physiology using bioactive CPPs, molecules that they call bioportides, which they used to influence sperm motility, or ability to move.
Howl and his team haven’t developed a pill yet, but he says “we have both interesting lead compounds and an innovative technology that needs to be further developed in a clinical setting.” Howl says there is “tremendous potential” for male birth control, especially since an estimated 40 percent of pregnancies are unplanned.