Birth control pills: the risks and benefits, according to experts

Dr. Sofia Herreraa specialty gynecologist, visited La Mesa Caliente to break down the benefits and risks associated with the use of the over-the-counter birth control pillas well as its specific implications in adolescents.

The doctor emphasized the importance of using contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies. and mitigate the risks associated with pregnancy early in life.

“It is something that is being studied and the use of contraception is definitely super beneficial to avoid an unwanted pregnancy and to avoid some risks that a pregnancy entails in adolescents.”

Sofía Herrera, gynecologist

One of the main concerns regarding this issue is whether Adolescent girls, especially those between 14 and 17 years old, run a significant risk to their health when using this contraceptive method without medical supervision. Dr. Herrera, based on her clinical experience, points out: “Of course. I had a great opportunity to see a large number of teenage pregnancies in public hospitals. There is a very high pregnancy rate in the lower classes, of less resources and less access to birth control methods and education.

A promising approach to developing a male contraceptive pill

In 1960, the world population was about 3,000 million inhabitants, less than three decades later, in 1990, it exceeded 5,000 and in 2022 it reached 8,000 million. And the trend continues: if projections are met, in 2037 there will be 9 billion people in the world.

Although these figures reflect the urgent need to address family planning, advances in contraception have been limited in recent decades and even today men do not have an oral contraceptive.

Now, a team of researchers from Baylor College of Medicine along with several collaborating institutions has demonstrated in animal models a novel non-hormonal, sperm-specific method that could be a promising option for human male reversible contraception.

The details of the study were published this Thursday in the journal Science.

An essential protein for fertility in men

“Although researchers have studied various strategies to develop male contraceptives, We still do not have a contraceptive pill for men“, Explain Martin Matzukauthor of the study and professor in the Department of Pathology and Immunology at Baylor.

“In this study we focused on a novel approach: identifying a small molecule that inhibits serine/threonine kinase 33 (STK33), a protein essential for fertility in men and mice“he points out.

Previous research has shown that STK33 – which is in the testicles – is necessary to form functional sperm. In mice, if the Stk33 gene is deleted, they become sterile because they generate abnormal sperm with poor motility.

In men, having a mutation in the STK33 gene causes infertility caused by the same sperm defects as those in mice without STK33 (called Stk33 knockout mice). Most importantly, mice and men with these mutations do not have other defects and even have normal testicular size.

Therefore, “STK33 is considered a viable target with minimal safety concerns for contraception in men,” Matzuk says.

So far, STK33 inhibitors have been described, but none are specific for STK33 or potent enough to chemically disrupt STK33 function in living organisms.

An effective STK33 inhibitor

In this study, researchers have discovered potent specific inhibitors of STK33, from which they have successfully generated modified versions to make them more stable, potent and selective.

“Of several of these modified versions, the CDD-2807 compound was found to be the most effective,” states Angela Kufirst author of the work.

The team tested the effectiveness of CDD-2807 in their mouse model. “We evaluated various doses and treatment regimens and then determined the motility and number of sperm in the mice, as well as their ability to fertilize females,” he points out. Courtney M. Suttonco-author and postdoctoral researcher in Matzuk's group.

The compound CDD-2807 reduced sperm motility and number and fertility of mice at low doses.

Additionally, the team showed that the mice showed no signs of toxicity from CDD-2807 treatment, that the compound did not accumulate in the brain, and that the treatment did not alter the size of the testiclessimilar to STK33 knockout mice and men with the STK33 mutation.

“What is more important, the contraceptive effect was reversible. After a period without the CDD-2807 compound, the mice recovered motility and sperm number and became fertile again,” he highlights.

The team also presented the first crystal structure of STK33. “Our crystal structure shows how one of our potent inhibitors interacts with the STK33 kinase in three dimensions. This allowed us to model and design our final compound, CDD-2807, to obtain better drug-like properties,” comments the co-author of the study, Choel Kimfrom Baylor.

Going forward, the team will continue to evaluate this STK33 inhibitor and CDD-2807-like compounds in primates to determine their effectiveness as reversible male contraceptives.

(With information from EFE)