The introduction of contraceptive methods was groundbreaking for women’s reproductive rights, giving them the power to decide when and if they wanted to have kids without forfeiting sex. However, since then, responsibility for reproduction and contraception has been shouldered primarily by women. This may soon change though with the breakthrough discovery of an effective and reversible male contraceptive pill.
Since the 1980s, men who have been taking a compound from traditional Chinese medicine known as T. wilfordii Hook F to treat rheumatoid arthritis have displayed infertility. Although not an ideal side effect for those suffering from arthritis, it did pique interest in researchers who were interested in developing male contraceptives.
From the herb, researchers were able to single out the compound triptonide as the most ideal contraceptive candidate. After running tests on mice and monkeys, they found that a single daily dose that was administered orally rendered male mice infertile within three to four weeks, and monkeys within five to six weeks. Most importantly, fertility returns after four to six weeks of not ingesting the pill.
So, how does it work? Triptonide deforms almost 100 percent of the test animals’ sperm, inhibiting them from swimming forward toward the egg. The compound is non-hormonal, meaning that there won’t be any unwanted mood or behavioral changes, and there were no toxic side effects that were noted either.
There is still research to be done, but triptonide demonstrates a lot of promise and may just be the ideal male contraceptive. The team hopes to begin human clinical trials in the near future and we will continue to follow this story for updates.