For years, we have been searching for an ideal contraceptive method for use in men similar to birth control pills. And we may be closer today.
Said male contraceptive method should have a series of characteristics so that the harm or side effects do not outweigh the benefits: Be comfortable, be reversible and avoid as much as possible these side effects in men who use it.
So why not deactivate sperm, and you're done? Something like this must have been thought by a group of researchers from the University of Berkeley and Yale University, whose work has recently been published in Science: A button capable of activating or deactivating sperm humans.
The button capable of activating and deactivating sperm
Deactivate sperm, as if they were from a drone Eureka! Probably this group of scientists would think when finding the finding, because we could be closer to the definitive male contraceptive. By deactivating the sperm we would have the ability to have greater control over unwanted pregnancies, and conversely, if we also control their activation, it will be quicker to find that desired pregnancy.
The button to activate the sperm would be nothing but a protein, the ABHD2. This protein will be essential for the process of arming the sperm, specifically its tail, since ABHD2 is the protein that makes sperm capable of swim.
Essentially what happens is a cascade of reactions: Female eggs need a hormone, the progesterone, who will be in charge of encouraging sperm in their career. Progesterone opens a molecular channel called CatSper (not casper, let's not confuse). And here comes the protein ABHD2: For there to be communication between progesterone and CatSper, the new protein discovered is necessary, and all together they collaborate so that the sperm move their tail.
The mechanism to activate and deactivate sperm
According to the researchers, this entire cascade of chemical reactions is essential to turn sperm on and off. All three molecules are important, but the new protein is the key to everything. After all, if sperm don't swim at a proper speed, there isn't much to do.
As we already anticipated at the beginning, if we manage to manufacture a substance capable of deactivating ABHD2, we will have a great first step to reach the definitive male contraceptive.
Finally, this research has also left some questions to solve compared to other substances that collaborate in the chain of reactions of human fertilization: Why the progesterone Can you act immediately, or take days to produce a reaction? It is a substance that collaborates in various chemical processes both at the time of fertilization and in the woman's menstrual cycle, and still leaves us with many doubts to resolve.