USC
About this Article
Written by: Kari Hernandez
Written on: November 4th, 2005
Tags: biomedical engineering, health & medicine, history & society, lifestyle
Thumbnail by: Illumin
About the Author
Kari Hernandez was a junior majoring in Industrial and Systems Engineering, with emphasis in Information Systems and Operations Management at the time she was published. As a young woman, she is familiar with current birth control methods, but has an interest in the newly conceived male counterpart.
Also in this Issue
Applying Nanotechnology to the Battle Against CancerWritten by: Simon Tse
Leonardo da Vinci: The Engineer Written by: Leallyn Murtagh
Look, No Hands!Written by: Steve Condoretti
The Inner Workings of Speech RecognitionWritten by: Seth Capistron
The Science Behind Tennis Racquet Performance and Choosing the Right RacquetWritten by: Yohan Chang
Stay Connected

Volume VIII Issue I > Planning for Future Generations
The cross-cultural desire for a male birth control "pill" has led the drive for a drug that creates reversible infertility in a safe and reliable manner, while securing sexual freedom and allowing men to partake in the responsibility of family planning. Potential drugs being explored are either hormonally-based and impede the production of sperm, or they are non-hormonal and render the sperm dysfunctional. Both methods have seen promising results; the former having potential correctible short-term side effects. Researchers aim to develop a drug that avoids major health-related issues and a decline in sexual drive, ensuring public interest in a male contraceptive. Long-term side effects for both forms are largely unseen. Although estimated to be about 10-15 years from production and prescription, such a birth control process has already identified potential markets worldwide, especially in Asia.

Introduction

Each year, 3 million unplanned pregnancies occur in the United States alone. On average, 468,988 teenagers will give birth, and 78% of these are a result of unplanned pregnancies (www.americanpregnan​cy.org). Despite all of the available male birth control methods, female birth control, namely the "pill," is still the most effective means of preventing pregnancy. Around the world, leading researchers are currently exploring the development of a male contraceptive "pill." The goal: to create a safe, reversible, accessible male contraceptive with few, if any, negative side effects. Researchers are currently investigating not only the desire for such a drug, but also numerous possibilities for its development. So far, developmental efforts have focused in two realms: hormonal and non-hormonal drugs.
The hormonal solution, as its name implies, uses various hormones to stop or significantly reduce spermatogenesis and has been proven successful in many different studies worldwide. Essentially, the hormonal contraceptive inhibits the entire male reproductive system, more specifically primary male sexual characteristics. The non-hormonal counterpart, on the other hand, focuses not on limiting sperm production, but rendering sperm unable to swim or successfully fertilize an egg. Preliminary results from the non-hormonal drug tests show fewer adverse side effects than in the hormonal variant; however it is much further from completion.
The difficulty in designing a male contraceptive lies in the struggle to control the millions of sperm involved in fertilization rather than the one egg females release on a monthly cycle. Despite this difficulty, the research efforts have proven largely successful in producing reversible infertility in both rodent lab tests and human field studies. The benefits of developing such a drug and confirming markets encourage researchers and pharmaceutical companies alike to pursue and promote a final, marketable, mass-producible product that will significantly alter society's notions about birth control.