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New Hormone Discovery Could Lead to Male Birth Control Pill Featured

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Gonadotropin-inhibitory Hormone (GnIH)

discovered in 2000 in quail and has since been studied in other birds, mice and sheep,was recently discovered in the hypothalamus of the human brain. The hypothalamus produces hormones that regulate  sex drive, body temperature, sleep and more. While the human genome contains the gene for GnIH, it was unclear if, when and where the protein hormone is produced, and whether it affects reproduction. )

GnIH suppresses another hormone‚ÄĒgonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). GnRH spurs the release of additional hormones (progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone, estrogen, testosterone, luteinizing hormone, etc.), which prime the body for sex and reproduction. So scientists cautiously suggest that male contraceptives based on the newfound hormone could someday be possible.

"That is an idea we've toyed with," said study co-author George Bentley, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley. But "we don't know enough about it yet."

While GnIH has been known in animals since 2000, and it was known that humans have a GnIH gene, it was a mystery whether humans actually produce the hormone and what its role is.

The UC Berkeley researchers extracted two versions of the hormone from the hypothalamus regions of five human brains. Not only does the hypothalamus, a brain region that controls reproduction, contain the hormone, but they found that it and the pituitary gland have receptors for the hormones and that GnIH affects nerve cells that produce the the fertility-boosting hormone GnRH.

GnIH Hormone Could Combat Cancer

Because reproductive hormones often promote the growth of cancer cells, GnIH might also work as an anti-cancer agent.

GnIH could be part of new treatments to combat hormone-sensitive cancers, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer, according to the researchers.

Synthetic substances are used today to suppress GnRH. But GnRH suppressers can cause allergic reactions, weight gain, and hot flashes.

Researchers suggest that GnIH could slow down the reproductive system naturally and without side effects associated with synthetic GnRH supressors.

"We've got a long way to go, but I think the fact that it's present in humans could be useful."

But first "we would have to understand exactly how this works in humans and how it works in concert with other hormones," study co-author Bentley said.

The work was funded by the Hellmann Family Foundation, the National Science Foundation and a UC Berkeley COR Junior Faculty Research Grant.

The Research appeared December 22, 2009 in the journal PLoS One.

Last modified on Saturday, 04 June 2011 13:36
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