Right now, men really only have three choices when it comes to birth control: condoms, a vasectomy, or pulling out, Tech Times reports. But after decades of false starts, a male version of the pill is one step closer to hitting pharmacies, according to Broadly. "It would be wonderful to provide couples with a safe alternative because some women cannot take birth control pills," Dr. Gunda Georg says in an American Chemical Society press release. Georg and her team at the University of Minnesota are working with "an experimental compound" that would ideally be taken orally to stop sperm with no negative effects on health or libido and no lasting impact on fertility. But, as Georg says, that's a "very high bar."
The compound researchers are working with blocks one of three retinoic acid receptors—the alpha receptor—related to fertility. Studies show animals with a deficiency in that receptor are healthy except for sperm production. "If you could block that receptor, pharmacologically, you could induce infertility," Georg tells Broadly. So far, researchers are having a hard time tweaking the compound to make sure it hits only the alpha receptor (thus avoiding side effects) while also being able to be taken orally. "No one wants to inject themselves with a needle once a day or once a week," researcher Jillian Kyzer says in the press release. But the team believes it's close to getting it right, with Georg predicting they'll have a pill ready for animal tests in half a year. (But will the CDC tell men who don't go on birth control not to drink, like they did women?)