This blog series highlights pertinent publications that were featured in MCI's monthly newsletter editions in the third quarter of 2022. The purpose of this blog is to report interesting or relevant work from MCI Fellows, Grantees, staff members, and other community authors in the field of male contraception.
Published by the University of Kansas Medical Center, this study discusses the importance of the Na,K-ATPase alpha 4 isoform (NKAα4), a sperm-specific isoform of a sodium-potassium ATPase, in sperm motility. Researchers used male mice to investigate the results of deleting NKAα4, as inhibiting this isoform leads sperm to be incapable of swimming. Results from the study found that genetic deletion of NKAα4 led to sperm being incapable of undergoing capacitation, as well as having low levels of ATP, both of which are essential for sperm motility. These results show the importance of further investigation of NKAα4 in male fertility in order to prevent sperm from swimming, and should continue to be investigated to form a target for a male contraceptive.
MCI grantee, Dr. Gunda Georg, and MCI Fellow Max Lyon coauthored this publication that discusses novel inhibitors of CatSper, a calcium ion channel on the tails of sperm that regulates sperm motility. Researchers are searching for a CatSper blocker that would block mature sperm from swimming, and therefore allow fertility to return once there is a replenishment of mature sperm. The authors of this study screened thousands of compounds and found several that inhibited sperm motility through using patch clamp electrophysiology. This is significant as previously only two ion channel inhibitors were known, therefore limiting the work able to be completed surrounding non-hormonal male contraception. With this discovery, researchers can continue to study CatSper as a target for nonhormonal male contraception and progress towards drug discovery efforts.
This publication by Human Reproduction summarizes the results of a survey sent to men engaged in thermal contraception regarding the motivations, experiences, and acceptability of thermal male contraception. Men included in the summary of this publication were those who had begun thermal contraception which was completed through wearing contraceptive underwear for 15 hours per day, in order to increase testicular temperature by 2 degrees celsius. The survey had questions related to contraceptive histories, motivations for choosing thermal contraception, participant experiences with thermal contraception, and the impact of thermal contraception on relationships with partners. The study found that participants switched to a male method of contraception in order to share the role of providing contraception in their family as well as the desire to take responsibility for contraception. These findings demonstrate that men want to play a part in family planning, they just need methods to do so.
This publication highlights the role of retinoic acid (RA), a metabolite of vitamin A, of which insufficient amounts can lead to male infertility. RA signaling and hormone stimulation are inextricable, and RA signaling is essential for spermatogenesis. Researchers of this study found that RA signaling is especially important in the early stage of spermatogonia differentiation as well as spermatocyte meiosis. The authors hypothesize that there may be a clinical application of RA in the future through application of RA in contraceptive development.
This publication highlights the opportunity to engage men in contraceptive counseling who accompany their partners in seeking abortion services. In this study, over 200 male partners were surveyed at the time of their partner’s abortion to evaluate their willingness to use novel male contraceptive methods, as well as their perception of responsibility in preventing unintended pregnancy. Researchers found that a majority of men believed that unwanted pregnancies are a shared responsibility for men and women and reported being willing to use male contraceptives in order to share the responsibility in preventing unwanted pregnancies with their partners. These results indicate the importance of not only having contraceptive options available to men, but also involving men in family planning sessions.
Are there any interesting publications about non-hormonal, reversible male contraception that you'd like to see featured? Please reach out to us and share your thoughts!