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Researchers awarded grant to develop male contraceptive pill


Researchers at the University of Wolverhampton have been successful in a bid to work towards creating a safe, reversible, and easily accessible male contraceptive by prohibiting the motility and effectiveness of sperm.

The Male Contraceptive Initiative has awarded $150,000 to researchers at the University of Wolverhampton to support a two-year project on their development of reversible and non-hormonal male contraceptives.

The spermatozoon is a highly differentiated cell type with the sole purpose of fertilisation. Compared with all other cell types, sperm appear to lack the capacity to actively take up molecules from their surroundings.

Professor John Howl and Dr Sarah Jones, who are part of the University’s molecular pharmacology research group, were keen to understand whether Cell Penetrating Peptides (CPPs) would be able to penetrate sperm cells.

The duo discovered that this interesting class of molecule, now accepted as a clinically useful drug delivery system, rapidly entered sperm to locate within specific intracellular environments.

This research has progressed in collaboration with the University of Aveiro in Portugal, the team led by Professor Margarida Fardilha, which identified a unique target within human sperm that controlled the acquisition of motility.

By joining forces, researchers were able to develop ‘STOPSPERM’ bioportides, a type of CPP that enters sperm to interact with this target, inhibit motility and block fertilisation.

This means the CPP could be used to reduce the motility of sperm, and therefore be developed into a new form of birth control.

Following the successful grant, Professor John Howl and Dr Sarah Jones aim to work closely with a dedicated Male Contraceptive Research Consortium with additional partners from São Paulo State University, Brazil and the University of Queensland, Australia, to progress towards the next stage of developing an orally active male contraceptive drug.  

John Howl, Professor of Molecular Pharmacology said: “We are so pleased to have been successful to be awarded the grant to move towards a crucial stage in our research.

“These continued developments have recently attracted significant commercial interest and we are confident that this research will provide substantial benefits for the University of Wolverhampton as we introduce a new contraceptive modality that is both reversible and safe, and that we hope will become a viable supplement to existing birth control techniques.”

Dr Sarah Jones, Reader in Pharmacology said: “This is an exceedingly exciting time and the first step to drive our non-hormonal male contraceptive into the clinical setting. Finally, years of dedicated effort have come to fruition.”

For more information contact the Corporate Communications Team

For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.

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