Folk contraceptive may be developed into molecular condoms
The two natural compounds, pristimerin, commonly found in the ‘thunder god vine’ plant, and lupeol, found in plants such as aloe vera, dandelion root and mango are the key to possible molecular condoms.
BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA — Researchers at UC Berkeley said two commonly used plant-based folk remedies could lead to the development of non-hormonal contraceptives.
The two natural compounds can block the ABHD2 protein. One compound is pristimerin, commonly found in the ‘thunder god vine’ plant. The other is lupeol, found in plants such as aloe vera, dandelion root and mango. ABHD2 is an essential enzyme that binds to progesterone, triggering the cation channels in sperm to open and let calcium atoms flood into the cell, giving the power kick the sperm tail needs to enter the egg.
When the protein is blocked, it is no longer able to trigger the opening of the channel, which is also known as CatSper. As a result, the sperm loses its power kick and is thus unable to penetrate the egg.
“Because these two plant compounds block fertilization at very, very low concentrations — about 10 times lower than levels of levonorgestrel in Plan B — they could be a new generation of emergency contraceptive we nicknamed ‘molecular condoms,'” Polina Lishko, an assistant professor of molecular and cell biology at UC Berkeley said in a press release.
Researchers said the discovery could lead to the development of either an emergency contraceptive or a permanent contraceptive.
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