Genetic aberration could aid male contraceptive development

April 10th, 2009 - 5:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 10 (IANS) A genetic aberration that seems to prevent some males from fathering kids could be instrumental in developing a male contraceptive.
Although female oral contraceptives developed over 40 years ago have been very effective in family planning, no similar contraceptive has been developed for males.

Surveys conducted by the Medical Research Council Reproductive Biology Unit, Britain, suggest that men would be willing to use a pharmacological contraceptive besides condoms or vasectomy if one was available.

“We have identified CATSPER1 as a gene that is involved in male infertility, a finding which could lead to future infertility therapies that replace the gene or the protein. But, perhaps even more importantly, this finding could have implications for male contraception,” said Michael Hildebrand, study co-author.

He is postdoctoral researcher in otolaryngology at the University of Iowa (U-I) College of Medicine.

The research team, which included scientists from the University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences, Tehran, discovered CATSPER1 while studying genetics of families in Iran, with relatively high rates of disease-causing gene mutations.

Although the team’s research with Iranians focuses on identifying genetic causes of deafness, collecting genetic information from this source allowed the researchers to identify two families where male infertility that was not part of a syndrome appeared to be inherited. The affected men’s infertility was diagnosed with a routine semen analysis.

Focusing on a group of genes that have been implicated in male infertility in mice, the researchers found that mutations in both Iranian families occurred in a single gene called CATSPER1.

Harvard University studies on mouse models that lack the CATSPER1 gene reveal how sperm is affected when the protein is missing or abnormal, said an U-I release.

These findings were reporting in the April 2 online edition of the American Journal of Human Genetics.

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