PHARMACY

Genetic abnormality found in males may lead to development of male contraceptive, study finds

BY Michael Johnsen

IOWA CITY, Iowa A newly discovered genetic abnormality that appears to prevent some men from conceiving children could be the key for developing a male contraceptive, according to University of Iowa researchers reporting their findings in the April 2 online edition of the American Journal of Human Genetics.

Although female oral contraceptives were developed more than 40 years ago and have proven very effective for family planning, no similar pharmacological contraceptive has been developed for males. Surveys conducted by the Medical Research Council Reproductive Biology Unit in the United Kingdom, suggest that men would be willing to use a pharmacological contraceptive if one was available. Presently, the only contraceptives available for men are condoms or a vasectomy.

“We have identified CATSPER1 as a gene that is involved in non-syndromic male infertility in humans, a finding which could lead to future infertility therapies that replace the gene or the protein,” stated Michael Hildebrand, co-lead author of the study and a UI postdoctoral researcher in otolaryngology at the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. “But, perhaps even more importantly, this finding could have implications for male contraception.”

The research team, which included scientists from the University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences in Tehran, Iran, discovered the male infertility gene while studying the genetics of families from Iran — a population that has relatively high rates of disease-causing gene mutations.

Although the team’s research with these Iranian families focuses on identifying genetic causes of deafness, collecting genetic information from this population allowed the researchers to identify two families where male infertility that was not part of a syndrome appeared to be inherited. The affected men’s infertility was diagnosed with a routine semen analysis.

Harvard University studies on mouse models that lack the CATSPER1 gene reveal how sperm is affected when the protein is missing or abnormal. These studies show that CATSPER1 mutations affect sperm motility, specifically the very vigorous hyperactive motion the sperm uses when it is entering the egg during fertilization.

“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,” Hildebrand said. “Identification of targets such as the CATSPER1 gene that are involved in the fertility process and are specific for sperm — potentially minimizing side effects of a drug targeting the protein’s function — provide new targets for a pharmacological male contraceptive.”

Several approaches to male contraception are currently under investigation at other institutions. One approach that could potentially target CATSPER1 is immunocontraception where antibodies are developed that bind to a targeted protein and block its function. Immunocontraception is still in early stages of development and in order to be useful it will need to be proven effective, safe and reversible.

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New antidepressant drug now available in the United States

BY Alaric DeArment

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. A new therapy for treating major depressive disorder in adults has become available in the United States, the drug’s manufacturer announced Tuesday.

Sanofi-Aventis U.S. said that Aplenzin (bupropion hydrobromide) extended-release tablets differed from other branded and generic bupropion antidepressants because it provides a unique HBr salt extended-release formulation.

“For patients who show little clinical improvement on lower doses of bupropion, there is a need to take higher doses to treat major depressive disorder,” Duke University Medical Center consulting professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences Prakash Masand said in a statement. “Aplenzin offers patients and physicians an alternative option which only requires one tablet, once a day at the highest bupropion dose. This provides a simple, convenient option for patients that currently need to take two to three tablets daily.”

The Food and Drug Administration originally approved the drug in April 2008. Sanofi licensed the drug from Biovail Corp. in December and markets it in the United States, including Puerto Rico.

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The ASA, MedicAlert join forces to create 24-hour protection system for patients with autism, related illnesses

BY Alaric DeArment

TURLOCK, Calif. The Autism Society of America and MedicAlert will collaborate to create a 24-hour protection system for people with autism-related illnesses and their families.

The ASA and MedicAlert said Tuesday that they would offer the system through the MedicAlert + Safe and Sound program.

“We are delighted by our new relationship with ASA,” MedicAlert president and CEO Martin Kabat said. “MedicAlert was originally founded to protect children in times of medical emergencies, and we believe this program goes right to the heart of our mission and history.”

Each person enrolled in the program will be given a personalized medical ID and wallet card to provide identification information, details on critical medical conditions and life-threatening allergies for emergency responders.

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