|"Scientists Unlock Secrets to Developing The Male Birth Control Pill"|
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June 9, 2009
New research from the Resssler Institue in Troy, NY opens up the development of a new contraceptive, the male birth control pill.
Human fertilization relies on complex and specialized mechanisms that allow the fusion of the male reproductive sperm cell to the female egg cell. The sperm is only able to fertilize an egg after residing in the reproductive tract for a period of time. Until now, scientists have had very little understanding of the reason why certain sperm cells are able to fertilize an egg and others aren't.
In the recently released Journal of Proteome Research, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology Mark Platt has shed some light on what changes occur to the sperm cell after it enter the the female reproductive cavity. This misunderstood process called capacitation is the process by which sperm acquire the ability to fertilize an egg. "Much has been done to understand capacitation, but with the tools that we have within the lab we can now identify how specific sites on individual proteins are modified during this process," said Platt. "With this knowledge we can develop a deeper understanding of the molecular mechanisms required to provide sperm with fertilizing competence."
According to the journal, "Phosphorylation can be thought of as a light switch, which can be used to turn on or turn off a step in the chain of reactions, known as a signal transduction cascade, that leads to capacitation. Just like the initial flicking of a light switch quickly moves electricity through the wires to turn on a lamp across the room, phosphorylation provides the initial trigger that moves a cellular signal through the cell that turns on its ability to fertilize an egg." According to Platt, by interfering with a just a single site of phosphorylation, scientists could entirely switch off the fertilization process. It is this ability that has the strongest potential for the development of a novel contraceptive.
In addition to preventing the sperms ability to impregnate, the research provides the ability for correct the specific sperm mutations that cause infertitily in males, or to design a drug that mimics phosphorylation on a particular amino acid to improve fertility.
Learn more at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute New Release