Scientists have made an epic breakthrough in creating male birth control

Before the invention of the contraceptive pill, there were basically only two decent options for avoiding unwanted pregnancies and STDs: condoms and abstinence. Unfortunately, the former option wasn't too appealing to a lot of people, and the latter just wasn't practical considering all the randy people out in the world, so science went ahead and started messing with hormones.

Not just any hormones, though - women's hormones.

In 1960, the first contraceptive pill was developed. And it worked! It messed with a lot of women's moods and skin and stuff, but that was ok, because it prevented a lot of unplanned babies. After a while, however, enough people realized that the pill was harming a lot of women, so they developed loads more contraceptives... again, all for women.

It wasn't that they didn't try to find something that worked for men, either. In fact, the male contraceptive jab has been proven to be up to 96 percent effective. Unfortunately, there were too many side effects - acne, mood disorders, altered sex drive (sound familiar, ladies?) - so it never made it to the commercial stage.

Thankfully, that might be about to change soon, as scientists have discovered a drug that could effectively work on guys.

sperm cells Credit: Pixabay

Research conducted by a team of biochemists from the University of Minnesota and University of Kansas Medical Center found a way of preventing conception in rats - apparently without any side effects.

Instead of using hormone-based treatments, however, the team found another chemical that did the job just as well: poison. More specifically, ouabain; a toxic compound found in several plants and trees. People have known about the chemical for centuries, and African warriors used to use the substance in order to make poison arrows.

But wait, isn't this just going to poison a load of guys who just want to get their rocks off? Nope. Well, not entirely.

bottle of poison Credit: Pexels

Usually, the chemical compound interferes with ion pumps in muscle cells and alters the way the muscle contracts. However, the substance can be altered slightly and then used to manipulate a different type of sodium-potassium pump that is present only in mammalian sperm cells.

As the research paper says, "Ouabain disrupts the passage of sodium and calcium ions through the membrane protein Na,K-ATPases, which are found in cell membranes and are made up of protein subunits. Some subunits are found in cardiac tissue, but one type of subunit called α4 is found only in sperm cells."

In layman's terms: the chemical can be used to immobilize sperm, meaning it is unable to reach the egg in order to complete the fertilization process.

Obviously, there were concerns that the ouabain might leave someone permanently incapacitated in the fertility department, but the researchers have found that there's actually no need to worry. According to them, the contraceptive effect “should be reversible because [the protein] is only found on mature sperm cells. That means sperm cells produced after stopping treatment with the ouabain derivative shouldn't be affected.”

sperm and egg cells Credit: Pixabay

If this makes it through the next lot of trial stages, it could eventually find its way onto the drugstore shelves - which is great news for guys, and even greater news for the women who are sick of loading themselves up with hormones every day.