Scientists are trying to create a new kind of contraception with a novel tactic: tangling up sperm so they can’t reach an egg.
The project relies on the precision targeting ability of monoclonal antibodies, which are widely used as drugs to treat everything from cancer to Crohn’s disease.
“There’s a real need for nonhormonal contraception. Not because the ones we have currently aren’t highly effective or safe, but the side effects can keep people from using them,” said Dr. Philip Darney, …
The antibody they’re testing was isolated from an infertile woman and binds only to human sperm. When it’s added to sperm in the lab, the sperm quickly clump together.
Other preliminary studies suggest that antibodies might also be able to trap sperm in the mucus in the reproductive tract.
The researchers are toying with manufacturing the antibodies inside of plants and fungi. They’ll ferry an antibody into a plant’s tissue, where the plant’s machinery will start producing the antibody. The process slowly kills the plant, which can no longer use its energy for its own tasks. After two weeks, the antibodies are harvested, ground up, purified, and turned into a dissolvable film.
“It’s like a Listerine strip,” Anderson said. A woman can place the film inside her vagina, where the film dissolves and the antibodies spread through the mucus.
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