Oleksandr “Sasha” Kirsanov is a PhD candidate in the Geyer laboratory at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine. His work is focused on defining the mechanisms underlying spermatogonial differentiation and meiotic initiation. In this blog post, Sasha shares about his work in the field of contraception, what he hopes to learn as an MCI fellow, and the future outlook of male contraception.
What have you focused your studies on? How does that relate to male birth control?
The main focus of my research is understanding the evolutionary conserved molecular mechanisms that drive germ-cell differentiation and initiation of the meiotic program in mammalian species. These differentiating germ cells also represent an untapped resource of potential targets of male contraceptives.
Why were you excited to work with MCI? What do you see that you bring to MCI?
The lack of male birth control options is a problem larger than most think, and I strongly support the MCI's mission to tackle this problem. The research that is done by our lab will advance our capabilities to develop a safe male contraceptive and I hope that I can continue working with MCI after my doctorate studies.
What skills would you like to learn or develop while with MCI?
There are two types of skills that I would like to learn while with MCI. First, on the technical scientific side, I would like to advance my understanding of genomic data analysis. Second, on the professional development side, I would like to become a better public speaker to communicate complicated scientific results and more importantly, their meaning, to the general public. I think the second skill is absolutely essential for the growth of this mission.
What is your connection to, or interest in, contraception?
When I joined Geyer lab as a master’s student in 2016, I was amazed with how little is known about the differentiation process in male germ cells and the impact this lack of knowledge has on the society. As of today, male contraceptives are still limited to condoms and vasectomy, both of which are far from being optimal. Therefore, family planning continues to primarily be the responsibility of women even though a large number of men would welcome the opportunity to use male contraceptive methods. Being able to assist in the developing a solution to this problem is one of the reasons this research is important to me
What do you think are the biggest challenges affecting contraception, generally, and male contraception, specifically?
One of the biggest challenges, in my opinion, is that this problem is not viewed as critical by a lot of people, even in the scientific community. I hope that our research and the work with MCI can shed the light on the importance of contraception work.
Do you think these challenges and opportunities have evolved over time? If so, how?
I think we are getting better at communicating our idea and thanks to the MCI, more people hear about this every day.
What are your hopes for the near and far future of male contraception? What will it take for these to become reality?
I think the future of male contraception is quite bright and we are moving in the right direction!
We share the same thoughts and excitement about male contraception as Sasha. As we all gain a better molecular understanding of sperm, the way we communicate about male contraception will only improve. We also look forward to seeing his professional growth in the years to come. Interested in learning more about Sasha? You can listen to him speak about the exciting research he is facilitating at the Geyer lab here.