Scientists Developing Contraceptive Drug That Stops Sperm From Swimming

Posted on May 2, 2016

Sperm swimming

Researchers from the University of Virginia are developing a male contraceptive drug that stops sperm from swimming to the drug. They say they have discovered a way to produce a key enzyme needed for the drug. They hope the drug will be free of the side effects typical of hormonal contraception.

John Herr, PhD, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, says in a statement, "The milestone reached is the production and isolation of a full-length, active kinase enzyme in sufficient quantities to conduct drug screens. Isolation of an active, full-length form of this enzyme allows us to test drugs that bind to the entire surface of the enzyme so that we can identify inhibitors that may exert a selective action on sperm."

The scientists say the kinase enzyme they are targeting is unique to the testes. They say it will decrease sperm motility and prevent fertilization from occurring.

Herr's collaborator, research scientist Jagathpala Shetty, PhD., says, "We believe this in an important contribution to our male contraceptive research, allowing us to identify male contraceptive drug candidates targeting the testes-specific kinases. So far there are no kinase drugs in use in contraceptive research, so this will be one of the first efforts to identify a drug inhibiting testes-specific kinase function."

Shetty also notes that the drug will face a high bar when it comes to safety. Shetty says, "Because a male contraceptive treats an otherwise healthy person, it's going to have to be very safe and efficacious, without side effects. Thus contraceptive research has a much higher bar [than in other forms of drug development], and it's going to take a determined march to reach the goal of a new, reversible contraceptive option for men."

Photo: UVA Health System

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