effort to produce the first-ever male birth control pill,
scientists have discovered that a plant extract once used by
African warriors as a heart-stopping ingredient in their
poisonous arrows could be the key.
natural product is called ouabain and it’s found in two
plants native to Africa — the acokanthera schimperi, or
"arrow poison tree," and the strophanthus gratus,
more commonly known as climbing oleander. Ouabain is a toxic
substance that can cause damage to the heart tissue and lead
to death, but when used in much smaller doses, it’s actually
found in drugs prescribed by doctors to help control blood
pressure and treat heart attack patients.
at the American Chemical Society noted that ouabain has been
shown to curb fertility in men but its high toxicity levels
make it unsuitable for this purpose — perhaps until now. The
scientists created a new ouabain analog — a variation of the
compound with a slightly different molecular structure —
that is designed to hone in on a specific protein in sperm
that controls its ability to swim. If sperm cells aren’t
able to swim, they can’t reach and fertilize an egg.
tried out its new ouabain compound on rats and discovered that
it made them infertile but also proved safe to the animals’
overall health, the study published in ACS’ Journal of
Medicinal Chemistry said. The scientists also believe that the
effects of the pill are completely reversible, like the widely
used female birth control pill. New sperm cells were not
affected once oubain left the rats’ systems.
potential male birth control pill has not been tested on
humans but the new research is an encouraging step toward
leveling the playing field of male and female contraceptive