New Sex Hormone Found—May Lead to Male Birth Control?

A new hormone discovery could help pave the way to a male birth control pill

Rachel Kaufman

for National Geographic News

January 11, 2010

A new human sex hormone has been found, a new study says. The naturally occurring substance could lead to the long-sought male birth control pill, researchers cautiously speculate.

Gonadotropin-inhibitory hormone (GnIH)—first identified in birds about a decade ago—was recently discovered in the hypothalamus of the human brain. The hypothalamus produces hormones that regulate sleep, sex drive, body temperature, and more.

GnIH suppresses another hormone—gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH)—which spurs the release of additional hormones, which prime the body for sex and reproduction. So scientists cautiously suggest that contraceptives based on the newfound hormone could someday be possible.

“That is an idea we’ve toyed with,” said study co-author George Bentley, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley. But “we don’t know enough about it yet.”

Louis DePaolo, the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s Reproductive Sciences Branch chief, agreed “it’s too premature” to consider a male birth control pill.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.