New Sperm Gene Discovery Could Lead to Male Birth Control

Category: Health / May 25, 2012 3:36PM EDT

Women have many options when it comes to contraceptives, while men don't have any. But all that could change.

Researchers have discovered a gene that is essential to the production of sperm.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh found that the gene, called Katnal1, causes temporary infertility in male mice when blocked.

The team gave mice a chemical called ENU that triggers genetic mutations. They then bred the mice to see if any of them became infertile, isolated the impotent mice, and backtracked through their genetic code to identify which gene was disrupted by ENU.

The team identified that Katnal1 is used to regulate a structure known as microtubules, which are the parts of sperm needed for nutrients and support.

According to the study, this gene could be key in developing birth control for men, and better understanding male infertility.

With this key bit of information, scientists say a non-hormonal contraceptive for men may be just five to 10 years away.