A male contraceptive pill could be developed using information on a genetic defect that causes infertility in some men, it has been announced.
Researchers from the University of Iowa were looking into the inherited causes of deafness within an Iranian community when they accidentally came across the discovery.
Scientists identified a single gene called Catsper1 that had previously been linked to male infertility in mice.
DNA analysis found that two mutations were likely to cause the gene to produce either a damaged protein or no protein at all.
The study, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, found that the faulty Catsper1 gene in mice affected the energetic activity displayed by a sperm cell entering an egg during fertilisation.
Researcher Dr Michael Hildebrand said: ‘Our research suggests that the defect in sperm hyperactivity that is seen in mice without Catsper1 will also occur in humans with the genetic mutation.’
‘Identification of targets such as the Catsper1 gene that are involved in the fertility process and are specific for sperm - potentially minimising side effects of a drug targeting the protein’s function - provide new targets for a pharmacological male contraceptive.’