Will This Blood Pressure Drug Help Keep Families Smaller?

One Long Island couple's struggle to conceive a child may have two happy endings. After molecular biologist Susan Benoff found the culprit--the man's blood-pressure medication--Helene Achenbaum became pregnant eight months ago. Success story two: The drug might be the key to the first safe, reversible contraceptive pill for men.

In experiments headed by Benoff at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., normal-looking sperm from 10 men failed to fertilize eggs in test tubes. All were taking a blood-pressure drug called nifedipine, which is sold under the brand name Procardia. The drug alters the surface of sperm, preventing them from binding to the mannose, or sugar molecules, on the surface of the egg. Next, Benoff plans to expand the study to 50 to 100 men. If the initial findings are confirmed by further study, she hopes to develop a male contraceptive without the side effects, such as dizziness, of many antihypertensive drugs.

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