Well, a study published by scientists in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, has revealed something interesting. The research which was done using rats has revealed a good lead for male birth control pills!
The study is based on a plant called Ouabain. It is an extract that African warriors and hunters used as poison for their arrows.
Two types of African plants make ouabain. Mammals also produce it in their bodies, though at lower levels that are thought to help control blood pressure; doctors sometimes prescribe small doses of the compound to treat heart attack patients.
Prior clinical studies have shown that ouabain curbs fertility in men. However, ouabain itself isn’t an option as a contraceptive because of the risk of heart damage. So Gunda Georg, Gustavo Blanco and colleagues set out to design ouabain analogs that are far more likely to bind to the ?4 protein in sperm than to subunits found in heart tissue.
By removing a sugar group from ouabain and also replacing its lactone group with a triazole group, the researchers created a derivative that is particularly good at zeroing in on ?4 in sperm cells in rats. Once bound, it interferes with the cells’ ability to swim, which is essential to its role in fertilizing an egg.
The compound had no toxicity in rats. The researchers say that the contraceptive effect should be reversible because ?4 is only found on mature sperm cells. That means sperm cells produced after stopping treatment with the ouabain derivative shouldn’t be affected.