The JQ1 prevents sperm from maturing, resulting in fewer and lower-quality sperm

Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Baylor College of Medicine have reported an experimental new drug which may point the way to a male birth control pill.

The researchers injected a small molecule called JQ1 into mice, which reduced their sperm production to the point where the animals became infertile.

Using an initial lower dose of the drug, four of seven mice that received it were able to reproduce, but their litters were smaller than normal. When the dosage was increased, none of the mice were able to reproduce at all.

When the drug was stopped and mice were able to reproduce again, their litters were no different in size, activity or behaviour from those of control mice.

The results found that JQ1 did not interfere with their sex drive, as the mice produced as much testosterone and mated as much as usual.

“These findings suggest that a reversible, oral male contraceptive may be possible,” said Dr. James Bradner.

JQ1 is small enough to cross the blood-testis barrier, so it can reach the cells that make sperm. JQ1 targets a protein called BRDT and inhibits it, thereby preventing sperm from maturing. The result is fewer and lower-quality sperm.

The molecule will not be ready for human testing anytime soon, but the researchers are hopeful for similar results.

“Humans do indeed have the BRDT gene, and human genetics suggests a similar role for BRDT in sperm production. We, therefore, tested activity against the human BRDT protein and found that JQ1 is a highly potent inhibitor of human BRDT,” Bradner added.

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