A recent study from researchers at Washington State University has shown success in keeping semen in its gel form to block sperm movement and possibly prevent pregnancy. The methods used in this study may eventually materialize into a non-hormonal female contraception method that could be available for over-the-counter purchase. Past research on mice found that the use of a non-specific protease inhibitor called AEBSF prevented the degradation of the protein of Semenogelin 1. Semenogelin 1 (SEMG1) is a protein that traps semen and prevents movement; therefore, its degradation is necessary for sperm liquefaction, where semen is transformed from a gel-like consistency to liquid. By inhibiting the degradation of SEMG1, the researchers were able to prevent the female mice from becoming pregnant.

To determine the efficacy of these inhibitors in humans for contraception, the study tested the effects of AEBSF on SEMG1 degradation, which prevented degradation and reduced sperm motility. They next tested the results of a neutralizing antibody that directly inhibited the prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which disrupted SEMG1 degradation. While the study was successful in utilizing inhibitors to reduce sperm mobility by targeting sperm liquefaction, more research is needed to test the efficacy and long-term effects of the inhibitors as a non-hormonal birth control method.

Flickr: “Egg Sperm” by Zappy’s Technology Solutions is licensed under CC BY 2.0


Anamthathmakula, P., Erickson, J. A., & Winuthayanon, W. (2022). Blocking serine protease activity prevents semenogelin degradation leading to hyperviscous semen in humans. Biology of Reproduction, 106(5), 879–887. https://doi.org/10.1093/biolre/ioac023

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