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Male contraception: One door opens, another closes

We have often heard that a new male contraceptive is "five to ten years" away. But are we getting any closer? The answer may finally be "yes." This week marked the announcement of one hot new lead and one dead end.

A door opens

Researchers in Italy and at the Population Council in New York have announced a breakthrough on a non-hormonal compound known as Adjudin (Nature Medicine, Oct. 29). By injecting the compound as an attachment to a modified hormone that seeks out the testes, researchers have found that a low dose is both safe and effective in rats. Without this targeting mechanism, only much higher doses are effective--but they are harmful to the body's organs.

Dr. Diana Blithe of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, a long-time funder of the Adjudin research, says that "This [new breakthrough] is what they were looking for and it looks like it's working."

The next step is to find a more appealing delivery system than shots; both a gel and a matchstick-sized implant have been discussed.

But will the contraceptive work as well in humans as in rats? Nothing is guaranteed. Elaine Lissner, director of the nonprofit Male Contraception Information Project, says the public gets frustrated because media reports make it sound as if every advance means a new contraceptive lies right around the corner. "People really need to distinguish between research in animals--or even in a lab dish--and studies in men."

Adjudin study coauthor Dr. Yan Cheng agrees, and says dedication will be required. "Obviously we're quite excited--but we still have a lot of work to do and a lot of hurdles to overcome."

End of the road for miglustat

The latest promising contraceptive that didn't make the leap from mice to men is miglustat (trade name Zavesca) (Human Reproduction, Oct. 25). The drug is already FDA-approved and on the market in both Europe and the United States for treatment of a ra
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