Potentially huge news published today in the journal Cell is the result of two years of collaboration between teams lead by Jay Bradner of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Martin Matzuk Baylor College of Medicine.
Bradner, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, explains the origins of this research as an attempt to block a cancer-causing gene. Put simply, all of an individual’s cells contain the same DNA, and so different cells, such as blood cells or liver cells, “remember” what type they are and what their function is with the help of proteins, which Bradner describes as little bookmarks at the molecular level.
The molecule he developed, JQ1, is intended to inhibit these proteins, removing the bookmarks and basically causing cancer cells to “forget” that they’re cancerous. The results, so far, have been promising. And as it turns out, JQ1 can, by the same mechanism, inhibit the testicular protein responsible for producing sperm (identified last year by Debra Wolgemuth and her team at Columbia University).
JQ1 is unusual in its ability to traverse the blood-testis barrier. The body’s germ cells are blocked by a cellular barrier that prevents toxins in the bloodstream from reaching them and damaging the genome. Normally, Bradner explains, this is a challenge for drug development, but JQ1 can travel freely across this barrier and can even concentrate in the testes.
In trials conducted on mice, prolonged exposure to JQ1 caused a significant decline in testicular volume. Three weeks of daily JQ1 treatment was revealed to cause a 4.5-fold reduction in the mice’s sperm motility, with their sperm count reduced to 28 percent of the control group. After 6 weeks, sperm count was at 11 percent, and only 5 percent of them remained motile.
To read more about this breaking news click here.
Would you consider getting male birth control?