23 August 2021

Boiled eggs

Scientists are developing heated male contraception to temporarily stop spermatogenesis

Sergey Vasiliev, Naked Science

The formation of eggs in women follows a clear cycle and is regulated by a certain set of hormones. The "key" to this process was found in the second half of the last century, when birth control pills began to appear on the market. However, it turned out to be more difficult with men: sperm production occurs constantly, and it is still not possible to stop it reliably and safely. "Men's pills" are still being developed and tested.

Weihua Ding and his colleagues from the University of Nantong have found a completely new approach to male contraception — temperature. It is known that even a moderate increase in temperature has a bad effect on spermatogenesis and sperm quality. Therefore, scientists suggest using weak heating to block this process — as expected, temporary and reversible.

The new approach has already been tested on male laboratory mice, as Dean and his co-authors write in an article published in the journal Nano Letters (Ding et al., Magnetic Testis Targeting and Magnetic Hyperthermia for Noninvasive, Controllable Male Contraception via Intravenous Administration).

The idea is to intravenously inject magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles coated with a biocompatible polymer. Then, with the help of a precisely controlled external field, they are delivered directly to the testicular tissues, where sperm formation occurs. Then it remains for a short time to warm them up to stop this process. The authors note that although the idea of using heating for male contraception is not new, nanoparticles can do with a very gentle increase in temperature, since they act only locally, on a small surrounding volume.

A 15-minute heating to 40 ° C was sufficient to completely suppress spermatogenesis in male mice. During the next week, none of their mating resulted in the birth of offspring. Spermatogenesis was gradually restored for 30-60 days after treatment. Judging by the results, contraception turns out to be completely reversible: soon all the males who underwent the procedure successfully mated with the females, and they brought normal numerous offspring.

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