Harvard docs happen upon potential male birth control with cancer compound

Scientists have spent decades researching potential drugs to serve as male contraceptives without much success. But now a mouse study sheds light on how a compound initially created to combat cancer was able to cut sperm counts in male mice without ruining their chances of siring future offspring. And those are the types of effects that make scientists wonder whether they've got an elusive male birth-control drug on their hands.

"These findings suggest that a reversible, oral male contraceptive may be possible," James Bradner, the senior author on the study and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement, as quoted by Bloomberg. "While we will be conducting more research to see if we can build on our current findings, JQ1 shows initial promise as a lead compound for male contraception."

The blockbuster market for female birth-control pills has enticed researchers to hunt for a male alternative for years, yet the gold standard for men to keep sex from leading to pregnancy remains condoms. Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Baylor College of Medicine have a lead on a potential alternative to the rubber covers.

In the mouse study of JQ1 published this week in Cell, researchers showed that the anti-cancer compound stymied sperm production and potency without cramping the rodents' sex drives. And sperm counts rebounded after stopping the drug, allowing the mice to resume mating, Bloomberg reported. Whether all this translates into the long-sought male pill remains unknown, but count on researchers to keep plugging away at their hunt after these promising data in mice.  

- read the Bloomberg article
- and the Boston Globe's report

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