Discussions regarding a potential male birth control has long been spoken of, but new research has provided a new insight into the possibility of contraceptive equality.

What if instead of blocking the movement of sperm, you could simply turn off the gene that controls their production?

A research team from Michigan State University have successfully been able to do this in mice. The team created genetically modified mice lacking the PNLDC1 gene, which encodes a protein essential in genomic parasite regulation. The results of which have been published in Nature Communications. Without the gene, development of sperm was altered, leaving the altered mice with fewer sperm and smaller testicles, making them effectively sterile. The mice encountered no significant side effects.

The research is very promising, and is unlike any other over the years. In a market that has experienced nothing but side effects; the idea presents a potentially new route of inquiry. The latest candidate is expected to enter human clinical trials in the next year, after experiencing promising results in trials done in rabbits and primates. In short, it is a gel that uses a technique called “reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance” to block sperm from being ejaculated.

In the past, pharmaceutical companies have been hesitant to invest into the male contraceptive market and few techniques have moved past initial phases of testing. However, a market demand remains, and it’s a market that is potentially worth billions of dollars.