Researchers at Kent State are developing a new form of birth control made for men.

Souvik Dey studies in the laboratory of Srinivasan Vijayaraghavan, a professor of biological sciences. They recently published a paper on calcineurin and glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK-3) alpha and their roles in the reproduction process.

Srinivasan

Srinivasan Vijayaraghavan, professor of biological studies, involved in contraceptive research.

“Calcineurin is [a protein] present in the brain, but there’s a version that’s unique to sperm. If you take out that enzyme, sperm is infertile. ... We’ve taken calcineurin inhibitors to block sperm hyperactivation,” Vijayaraghavan said.

Calcineurin inhibitors are prescribed to eczema and organ transplant patients to reduce swelling or treat dermatitis. When tested in low concentrations with in vitro fertilization, the inhibitors reduced sperm motility to rates near zero. 

Vijayaraghavan and Dey have found that calcineurin inhibitors can be used alone or with GSK-3 alpha. When used with GSK-3 alpha, calcineurin is even more effective in reducing sperm motility.

Bull Sperm

Scope views of bull sperm, which were tested on during initial drug trials.

Srinivasan anticipates that pharmaceutical companies will be slow to adapt to this emerging form of contraception due to the drug’s possible side effects. 

Dey said once they are able to replicate the results of mouse models in human sperm, the next step is to start testing on primates.

The injection is still in its preliminary stages, but Dey thinks the lab may be able to begin testing on primates as soon as next year when grants are approved.

Hannah Davis is a science and research reporter. Contact her at hdavis35@kent.edu.

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