The world's first male contraceptive pill that blocks the launch of sperm cells during ejaculation could be available within the next ten years, scientists say.
The pill could provide a safe, effective and reversible method of contraception for men.
Scientists have found that complete male infertility could be achieved by blocking two proteins found on the smooth muscle cells that trigger the transport of sperm.
The researchers demonstrated that the absence of the proteins alpha1A-adrenoceptor and P2X1-purinoceptor, which mediate sperm transport, caused infertility, without effects on long-term sexual behaviour or function in mouse models.
Lead researchers, Dr Sab Ventura and Dr Carl White of the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, believe the knowledge could be applied to the potential development of a contraceptive pill for men.
"Previous strategies have focused on hormonal targets or mechanisms that produce dysfunctional sperm incapable of fertilisation, but they often interfere with male sexual activity and cause long term irreversible effects on fertility," Ventura said.
"We have shown that simultaneously disrupting the two proteins that control the transport of sperm during ejaculation causes complete male infertility, but without affecting the long-term viability of sperm or the sexual or general health of males. The sperm is effectively there but the muscle is just not receiving the chemical message to move it," said Ventura.
Ventura said there was already a drug that targets one of the two proteins, but they would have to find a chemical and develop a drug to block the second one.
"This suggests a therapeutic target for male contraception. The next step is to look at developing an oral male contraceptive drug, which is effective, safe, and readily reversible," said Ventura.
If successful, it is hoped a male contraceptive pill could be available within ten years, scientists said.
Currently, the use of a condom or a surgical vasectomy provides the only proven form of contraception available to men.
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.