"Bright Pill" for Male Birth Control Shows Promise in Early Tests

The quest for a male birth control method has taken some weird turns. The latest contender for the elusive male pill is an Israeli scientist who says he has developed a compound that temporarily inhibits the reproductive capacity of sperm.

Haim Breitbart of Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv developed the drug, which he calls the Bright Pill, after he and research partner Yael Gur discovered some important biochemical changes that happen to sperm after it enters the female reproductive tract. More recently, the drug development process has involved watching mice copulate.

Mice given a low dose of the compound remain sterile for one month. Those given a higher dose are sterile for three months. But importantly — and this is where the laboratory voyeurism comes in — their sex drives remain steady.

"The mice behaved nicely," Breitbart told the website. "They ate and had sex; they were laughing and everything."

What laughing mice look like, I can't say. But Breitbart's method, if it pans out, will add to a number of other quirky attempts at uncovering a safe and effective form of birth control for men. These range from pills inspired by marijuana's link to impotence to some brave attempts to zap the testes with ultrasound. May the race to the finish line begin.

Mara Hvistendahl is writing The X-Y Problem, a book on reproductive technology, sex selection, and gender imbalance. [Israel21c]