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Oral contraceptives may soon be available for men. However, it would be done using a toxic substance that ancient Africans used as arrow poison in hunting and warfare.
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Ouabain, a natural toxin so lethal that it could topple an animal the size of a hippopotamus in a matter of minutes, is actually an appropriate ingredient for male oral contraceptives.
Ethiopians have long used the glycoside as an arrow poison. It is commonly derived from two local plants, Acokanthera schimperi and Strophanthus gratus, and is also present among mammals that produce it at lower levels to regulate blood pressure.
The use of arrow poison
The traditional extraction process begins by boiling the roots, stems, leaves and seeds of any of the plants over a fire. The arrowheads are immersed in the concentrated liquid to make them poisonous.
However, ouabaína is not so dangerous. In 1859, the English botanist Thomas Kirk noticed that his heart was beating harder when he unknowingly used a contaminated toothbrush.
This accidental discovery unlocked the toxin's ability to trigger cardiac action, which led to an effective treatment for heart conditions. Due to its powerful properties, ouabain is currently a controlled substance.
Ouabain for the control of birth control
Three years ago, a Chinese study had already investigated the ability of ouabain to prevent the motility of sperm cells. Male laboratory rats were injected with the plant-derived form and the results were promising.
Despite its success, the toxin was never used to formulate male contraceptive pills. It was considered too dangerous because of his known risks to the heart.
Recently, however, a new study yielded the same results, but the scientists who used it used a modified analogue of the glycoside. They have manipulated their molecular disposition by removing a sugar group and replaced their lactone group with a triazole group to make it non-toxic to the heart and other systems of the human body.
The team reports that in male rats, the ouabain derivative only affected sperm cells by binding to a subunit known as Na, K-ATPase α4. Reduces the ability of sperm cells to swim, producing male infertility.
The results of this study contribute significantly to the development of an active male pill, especially since the effects of the toxin on sperm function were temporary. 19659005] Injectable hormonal contraceptives for men
With limited birth control options available for men, scientists have been trying to create not only oral pills but also hormone injections.
Last year, scientists created a formula made of 200 mg of norethisterone enanthate combined with 1,000 mg of testosterone undecanoate. It was injected into male participants every eight weeks.
The German team concludes that hormone injections were effective in suppressing the production of sperm cells and that this effect was reversible even after 52 weeks of using the contraceptive.
However, the hormone injections ended because they produced side effects such as acne, increased libido and mood disorders.
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