June 4, 2013— -- A group of scientists in Mexico is busy at work on a new birth control method for men that doesn't involve using hormones or sterilization.
It's not yet clear whether this new method would be a pill, cough syrup, injection, or something altogether different. But its developers have promised two things: The new contraceptive will have no major side effects and will only temporarily suspend a man's fertility.
If it works, the new method would offer an alternative to hormone-based male contraceptives with familiar side effects like wild mood swings, acne, and loss of sexual appetite. It might also mean that men could take a greater role in birth control responsibilities, which often fall primarily on women.
Here's how it would work:
The researchers -- biochemists and molecular biologists based at Mexico City's UNAM University -- say they have discovered two proteins that are unique to sperm cells, called CatSper and Slo3. These proteins essentially give sperm the energy they need to navigate a woman's ovaries and fertilize her eggs.
The scientists are now trying to develop a molecule that can disable CatSper and Slo3, thus depriving sperm cells of the mojo they need to do their jobs.
New contraceptive methods for males could be quite important in cattle ranching and fisheries, according to Dr. Alberto Darzon, the UNAM team's leader. But he added that human males could also use more options for birth control.
"Until now, there has been no male contraceptive method that has temporary effects and is efficient and safe," Darzon told the UNAM´s press office. "It's amazing that until now, society has placed on women the responsibility of dealing with the secondary effects of birth control methods. That is a clear sign of gender discrimination."
Of course, men could just keep using condoms, instead of taking birth control pills, injections or the like. But for those who want to be extra safe, or for those who have a long-term partner and dislike using condoms, alternative contraceptive methods like this one could be an attractive option.
What do you think? Should dudes share a greater portion of the birth control responsibilities with their female partners?