A compound initially made to help in the fight against cancer could also hold promise for a reversible form of male birth control, scientists say.
The compound, called JQ1, was originally created to block the BRD4 gene, which causes cancer. However, researchers have found that the compound also seems to be effective in decreasing the quality and production of sperm in mice -- thereby affecting fertility.
Plus, the researchers found that this compound didn't seem to have any negative effects on sex drive. And when the mice stopped taking the compound, their sperm went back to their normal levels.
"These findings suggest that a reversible, oral male contraceptive may be possible," study researcher Dr. James Bradner, M.D., of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute, said in a statement. "While we will be conducting more research to see if we can build on our current findings, JQ1 shows initial promise as a lead compound for male contraception."
Bradner and his colleagues worked with researchers from Baylor University on the study. Their findings will be published in the journal Cell.
This isn't the first time hopes have been stirred for a reversible male birth control option. Earlier this year, the Los Angeles Times reported on a gel that decreased men's sperm counts and didn't seem to have much in the way of side effects. That gel contained the hormones testosterone and Nesterone (a man-made progestin).