Infertility gene may lead to pill for men

LONDON: Scottish scientists have discovered a gene that plays a key role in production of healthy sperm, a breakthrough that could soon pave the way for developing a new contraceptive pill for men.

In experiments on mice, researchers at theCentre for Reproductive Health at theUniversity of Edinburgh found a gene, called Katnal1, which was vital for the final stages of sperm production.

Detailing their findings in the journal PLos Genetics, the team said a drug which interruptsKatnal1 could be a reversible contraceptive.

They were investigating the causes of male infertility, for which they randomly altered thegenetic code of mice to see which became infertile . They traced the mutations causing infertility, which led them to find Katnal 1. It contains the blueprints for a protein which is important in cells that support sperm making. Without the protein, sperm do not fully form and the body disposes of them.

They hoped they would be able to perform a similar trick in humans to stop sperm developing, without causing lasting damage.

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