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Male Birth Control Shot

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USA TODAY

Study gives male contraceptive a shot

Fri Nov 12, 6:23 AM ET

By Liz Szabo, USA TODAY

Scientists trying to develop a birth-control pill for men have long been thwarted by two major obstacles: the wiliness of sperm and the unwillingness of women to trust their partners with such a weighty responsibility.

While few biologists feel qualified to provide relationship counseling, one group of researchers says the group may be a step closer to solving the technical problems of male contraception.

In a study published today in Science, researchers say they have developed a reversible, immunocontraceptive injection that works 78% of the time - at least in monkeys. Scientists have yet to prove whether men are similar enough to monkeys for the shot to work for them, too.

Although other scientists have experimented with hormones, these researchers injected subjects with a vaccine that targets a protein, called Eppin, that coats the surface of sperm. Seven out of nine animals developed an immune response, indicating that the vaccine was working, says M.G. O'Rand, a professor of cell and developmental biology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Medicine. None fathered babies while taking the shots.

The study provides the "first clear evidence" in primates that antibodies to sperm-coating proteins can prevent conception, says John Herr, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Research in Contraceptive and Reproductive Health.

But the vaccine is far from perfect, O'Rand says. Two of the seven monkeys - or 29% - remained infertile after the shots stopped.

Susan Benoff, former president of the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, says the vaccine isn't yet reliable enough to be used in humans. Doctors also need to better understand how the vaccines work.

But the greatest challenges to developing male contraception could be psychological, Benoff says. While some men might take a pill, most of her male patients aren't crazy about needles. Many men prefer condoms, which are inexpensive, widely available and help prevent sexually transmitted infections.

"It's obviously not going to be used by a gentleman who's interested in a one-night stand," Benoff says.

Yet it may be harder to win over women, many of whom are used to taking responsibility for preventing pregnancy, she says.

"If you are the woman," Benoff says, "you are the one who's going to be pushing out the 8-pound bowling ball, so you really have to trust that he's going to do what he says he's going to do."

It's about time!!

Maybe a good future option for those guys who are a bit squeemish about vasectomy.

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