Artificial eggs made from seaweed could provide women with a popular alternative to the pill.
The ‘very impressive’ work is still at an early stage but it offers hope of a contraceptive that is free of the mood swings, weight gain and other side-effects that dog the hormone-based drugs used daily by millions of women, reports The Daily Mail.
The ZP2 peptide beads, as they are officially called, could also be used to choose the best sperm for use in IVF.
The beads are made from a sugary material that is extracted from seaweed and are so small that 8 million would fit on a little finger nail.
They are coated in a substance that is normally found on the outside of woman’s eggs and that sperm latch on to.
Inserted into the womb in their millions, they acts as decoys, trapping the sperm before they reach the eggs.
Researcher Jurrien Dean, of the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, said: ‘Effective contraception is critical for family planning.
‘This strategy provides highly-effective, non-hormonal, long-term but reversible contraception in female mice.
‘We envisage that the sperm-decoy strategy could one day be translated to reproductive medicine to provide effective female contraception.’
Professor Allan Pacey, a Sheffield University fertility expert, said: ‘I am very impressed. This opens up a whole new avenue for researchers to develop a non-hormonal based contraception for women which would be very welcome and exciting.
‘I wish the scientists every success. It is the kind of study I wish I had thought of and had the technical nous to do.’
Lots of testing still lies ahead. But it sounds like a winner.
What is your preferred method of contraception? Would you be keen to give this a go?
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