Scientists develop unisex birth control

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Birth control pills…

Something that women, not men, have been taking for decades, while enduring the not so pleasant side effects. 

But thanks to the scientists at YourChoice Therapeutics on the UC Berkeley campus, a non-hormonal, unisex birth control poll may be coming to a drug store near you.

“So we’re developing a pill for men that they could take that allows them to not get women pregnant, and this works by essentially zapping sperm cells of the energy required to fertilize an egg,” Akash Bakshi, CEO of YourChoice, said.

The co-founders of the startup, Polina Lishko and Nadja Mannowetz, were developing a non-hormonal birth control option for women, but during their research, they learned that men can take it too.

Up until now, hormonal contraceptives primarily worked to stop ovulation in a female, but this new type of birth control can effectively inhibit the action of male sperm making it suitable for men.

“When you learn about something that is sperm-specific, all the lights go on. If we can prevent or in any way change the function of that protein so that sperm cells cannot do their usual work, then we are on the good way to start developing a contraceptive,” Mannowetz said.

Unlike traditional birth control pills, the new pill doesn’t prevent ovulation. Instead, it targets sperm, preventing them from reaching the egg.

Mannowetz says the contraceptive will have no side effects and it’s reversible, so it won’t impact a man’s fertility. 

“They produce sperm cells 24/7. Once they start puberty, they don’t stop. So you flush the drug out of their system, they keep producing sperm cells and these sperm cells will not be exposed to the drug,” Mannowetz said. 

The process to get this new drug approved by the FDA is lengthy, but YourChoice Therapeutics hopes to release it as an over the counter drug in 2025.

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