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Stinging nettles could pave the way for male contraceptives after a study revealed they could block a protein in sperm transport.

As it stands, there are only two forms of male contraception: condoms or a vasectomy. But now, a new scientific study published in the Plos One journal has found that the natural ingredient could hinder sperm movement.

Led by Dr Sab Ventura, Australian researchers looked at the effect of a stinging nettle leaf extract on mice.

Their findings revealed that "stinging nettle leaf extract (50 mg p.o. daily) reduced male fertility by 53 per cent compared to vehicle-treated male mice."

To avoid any awkward (and painful) endeavours, it's worth noting that the stinging nettle will be taken orally as part of a pill, not externally.

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“The primary aim of this research was to investigate the activity of a commercially available stinging nettle extract as an inhibitor of the P2X1-purinoceptor target and to determine its pharmacological effect,” Dr Ventura from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Science said.

“In this study, we were able to conclude that stinging nettle leaf extract reduces contractility of urinary and genital smooth muscle by acting as a P2X1-purinoceptor antagonist and that blocking sperm transport through pharmacological blockade of P2X1-purinoceptors via oral administration is an effective and convenient biological strategy for male contraception.”

The researchers now plan to look closely at which compound(s) are inhibiting the protein, as they believe it could be a valuable starting point for a male contraceptive.

"Unfortunately, there has been a widespread perception that birth control is a women's problem rather than a men's problem," Dr Ventura said.

"However, research led by the Male Contraceptive Initiative shows that the majority of men are willing to take control over contraception - we just need to give them the opportunity to do so."

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