THURSDAY, May 24 (HealthDay News) -- The discovery of a key gene
involved in sperm development could eventually lead to the creation
of a new type of non-hormonal birth control for men, a study
involving mice suggests.
Researchers found that a gene called Katnal1 is critical to
enable sperm to mature in the testes. Finding a way to regulate
this gene could prevent sperm from maturing, making them incapable
of fertilizing eggs.
This finding also could lead to new treatments for cases of male
infertility in which the Katnal1 gene malfunctions and hampers
sperm development, according to the study, from researchers at the
University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
The researchers found that male mice modified to lack the
Katnal1 gene were infertile. Further investigation revealed that
the gene was essential for sperm development and maturation.
Successful trials in mice do not necessarily mean the success
will translate to humans, however.
The study was published in the journal
"If we can find a way to target this gene in the testes, we
could potentially develop a non-hormonal contraceptive," study
author Lee Smith, of the University of Edinburgh's Center for
Reproductive Health, said in a journal news release.
"The important thing is that the effects of such a drug would be
reversible because Katnal1 only affects sperm cells in the later
stages of development, so it would not hinder the early stages of
sperm production and the overall ability to produce sperm," Smith
"Although other research is being carried out into non-hormonal
male contraceptives, identification of a gene that controls sperm
production in the way Katnal1 does is a unique and significant step
forward in our understanding of testis biology," Smith
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on
Women's Health has more about
birth control methods.
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