Male contraceptive claims are premature

08 June 2012

Interview with 

Safia Danovi


Kat - So moving from the 16th century to bang up to date modern times, there's some research published in PLoS Genetics this month from researchers up Edinburgh led by Lee Smith that led to headlines all over the place going "male contraceptive pill could be here, blah, blah, blah". But when you actually look at the research, that's really not what they found. What have these researchers been up to?

Safia - What they've done is they've identified a molecule called KATNAL1 which seems to be essential for sperm motility, so their ability to move within the testes as they mature. So I don't really know how this translated into a headline for male contraception but where I do think it could be really useful is in the future is developing it as a treatment for male infertility which can often occur as a result of low sperm motility, so this could be really one to watch.

Kat - I'm never convinced by any of the stories about the male contraceptive pill. I don't think I trust them, frankly. I think it is really interesting that they found this molecule and understood what it does, but I don't think it's anywhere else close to being something useful for contraception, but starting to understand infertility, that could be really important because it is something we don't really understand that much about.

Safia - It is something we don't understand and it's the cause of such distress for couples who are trying to have a baby and just can't. So hopefully, this might offer some important insight as to what is going wrong, in the cases where infertility is down to low motility in male sperm.


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