Shutting down sperm production has proved complicated, experts say
TUESDAY, June 1 (HealthDay News) -- For half a century, women have had access to birth control pills. Men? Still waiting.
To date, no one has come up with an equivalent product for men, a male "pill" that would safely block or dramatically reduce sperm production.
Efforts are underway, however. Researchers are exploring potential hormone-based products that would provide effective contraception for men. Getting the product to market, though, could prove challenging.
"They can show that by using products that are already on the market and available, you can achieve the goal of male contraception," said Diana Blithe, program director for the male contraceptive development program at the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. "We know it's feasible. Whether or not a company will market [it] doesn't appear to be the case at the moment."
Research on a male birth control pill has lagged for a number of reasons, said Dr. John K. Amory, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Partly it's a matter of biology. The differences between men and women have made it easier to successfully research how to shut down female reproduction, Amory said.
"Women have a period in their life when they're not fertile, and that's when they're pregnant," he said. "Men don't have an analogous period in their lives."
The male reproductive system also is more active. "Men make 1,000 sperm a second. Women make one egg a month, mostly," Amory said. "It's harder to suppress that level of production."
Research has focused on the potential of testosterone to halt sperm production. Doctors have found that when the body is flooded with an excess of testosterone, sperm production halts. "It blocks the signals from the brain to the testes to create sperm," Amory said. Excess t
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