Well, maybe– and maybe not. While it’s an important scientific advance, this is also very early-stage research, the kind that may or may not ever make it to market.
In short, the researchers found a drug called JQ1 that shuts off sperm production in mice– and though it’s just mice, that’s already more advanced than many studies that are reported as big news. Many studies claiming to a big deal basically say “we found a gene/ ion channel/ whatever that is key for sperm production/function. Now if we can just find a drug to affect it! We’re looking hard! And then we’ll need to see what else the drug happens to do to men and whether it’s safe. Check back in 5 or 10 years!”
These researchers, by contrast, are a step ahead: they have already found a drug that works in mice, called JQ1, that they discovered while working on cancer. But not all drugs that work in mice work in humans, as was discovered to great disappointment with another promising male contraceptive lead, Zavesca. And even if it works, it will take many years of testing to determine whether the drug affects anything else in the body besides sperm production. Is it really a magic bullet against sperm production only, or does it just happen to turn your hair green or raise your cholesterol while it’s at it? Only time will tell.
In the meantime, it is important to keep funding contraceptive methods further along the pipeline. Too often, researchers get promising early results like these in mice and then find they can’t get the scale of funding needed to take the work to the finish line. Some methods in this category: Gamendazole and the Clean Sheets Pill, which have already been shown to work in animals; RISUG and Vasalgel, highly-effective methods that can provide hassle-free contraception for more than 10 years; and Gandarusa, a plant-based pill slated to go on the market in Indonesia next year but that has not been pursued at all in the West. New research is important, but we must also finish the jobs we start.