- Columbia University researchers took advantage of the importance of vitamin A to design a new contraceptive approach. Men who are extremely low in vitamin A lose their fertility-- but they also become extremely sick, so avoiding vitamin A doesn't work as a contraceptive. Instead, Professor Debra Wolgemuth discovered a drug that had been abandoned by a pharmaceutical company precisely because it interfered with vitamin A receptors in the testes. Her team tested it in mice, and it worked with no health effects. "The receptors are everywhere, but the testis is exquisitely sensitive to the drug. So we can use a dose that is so low it has no effect on the rest of the body."
So the drug doesn't harm mice-- but will it be fine in men" Dr. Wolgemuth thinks the chances are good. "There's extensive toxicology data in rats and rabbits -- and at much higher doses-- because industry is developing it for other uses. So we're optimistic that there would be no adverse side effects in humans as well."
So how long must we wait? Advocates say it all depends on men speaking up. "We've seen today that the pipeline is full-- everything from new targets to actual human trials," explains Kirsten Thompson, director of the International Male Contraception Coalition. "And the demand is there-- hundreds of men have voiced their opinion on our website MaleContraceptives.org and in surveys. So it's just a question of whether policymakers act on that demand." Elaine Lissner, director of the Male Contraception Information Project, concurs. "We could have something like the IVD on the market in 4-5 years, if we make an all-out effort with funding and focus. But if we continue with just a study here and a study there, it could be an eternity."
|Contact: Elaine Lissner|
Male Contraception Information Project