An Experimental Birth Control Attacks Sperm Like a Virus

During the millennium, people have come up with more effective ways to avoid childbirth. The ancient Egyptians and Greeks used linen blankets and animal bladders, an introduction to modern latex condoms and diaphragms. Now we have spermicides, sponges, intrauterine devices, pills, and implants to keep sperm and egg separate. There is only one problem: People who want to avoid pregnancy do not always use contraceptives.

“The big reality here is that almost half of all pregnancies are unintended,” said Deborah Anderson, a Boston University Medical School professor who specializes in obstetrics, gynecology, and infectious diseases. “Even if we have a very good method of hormonal control, it doesn’t go as far as we’d like.”

There are many reasons why some people don’t want to use hormonal contraceptives: It requires a prescription, it can cause side effects, it puts the cause of contraception in women, and it needs to be remembered. a daily medication or shot every three months, or there is a more attractive way to place an implant. Other methods also have drawbacks: Some require partner permission, are easy to forget or misuse heat weather, or have a shorter success rate.

That’s why scientists are working on a new method that is easy to use, careful, and effective without altering women’s hormones. This strategy uses manufactured proteins called monoclonal antibodies to mimic the antibodies used by the immune system and attack the sperm before they capture the egg. Recent papers – one published in Medicine in the Translation of Science in August and another also published in EBioMedicine in July – it has been shown that these antibodies can attach to sperm and render them impotent. Other studies have investigated whether these antibodies can be used fight against HIV or the virus that causes herpes, and whether they are safe to use as a topical contraceptives or so an insert such as the vaginal ring.

“The time was right,” said Anderson, a coauthor of EBioMedicine paper, showing that the produced antibodies are effective in binding sperm.

If monoclonal antibodies are familiar, that’s because they’ve recently gotten a lot of attention as a treatment. fought with Covid-19. Antibodies are a protein made by the human immune system to fight infections. They bind specific sites to specific invaders and ignore them, while also signaling to the body that they are under attack and need to make more protective agents. We are born with some of our antibodies. Some are done after putting on a new germ and getting sick-think the itchy, hard-to-overcome resistance that comes from healing chicken pox. And some are done after exposure to a vaccine that trains the body to prevent certain invaders from suffering from the actual disease.

And now, some are made in the lab. It is meant to be short-lived protectors, not a permanent change in resistance; classes such as temporary bouncers that prevent unwanted guests-sperm-from joining the party.

Anderson was looking for a vaginal film to buy at a pharmacy without a prescription. Each film lasts about a day. “I think it could be popular for use by women who have a similar relationship,” she said. “They don’t want to be in something like a hormonal routine that is routine. They want to only use a product when they need it.”

Some people naturally make anti-sperm antibodies, which do not kill the sperm, but make it coagulate into a giant lump. If sperm cannot swim from the hostile, acidic environment of the vagina, they die. In the 1970s, scientists began trying to copy those antibodies in the lab. But “at that time, the ability to make antibodies and give them specific doses was not possible,” said Samuel Lai, director of the pharmacoengineering program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and coauthor of the August paper. It’s also incredibly expensive to synthesize enough of it. “That’s why all the early work focused on a contraceptive vaccine,” he continues.

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