feral kittens CC Jan-Mallander

Expensive and uncomfortable spay and neuter surgery could be a thing of the past thanks to researchers at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) who believe a simple shot in the haunches will do the job.

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Their “vectored contraception” works like a vaccine against pregnancy. The procedure causes muscle cells to block a hormone called GnRH. All mammals, including humans, require GnRH to reproduce. It’s essential to making eggs and sperm mature, and blocking it makes mammals infertile.

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There are a number of groundbreaking potential new uses for this “injection contraception,” such as the ability to help control feral cat populations by catching the critters and giving them the shot instead of surgery.

“Spaying and neutering of animals to control fertility, unwanted behavior, and population numbers of feral animals is costly and time consuming, and therefore often doesn’t happen,” said Bruce Hay, professor of biology and biological engineering at Caltech. “There is a strong desire in many parts of the world for quick, nonsurgical approaches to inhibiting fertility. We think vectored contraception provides such an approach.”

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The CalTech research was supported by Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Beckman Institute, and the National Institutes of Health and in part by a Gates Millennium Scholar Award for one of the scientists on the team.

Their work was published in the journal Current Biology.

(Photo: Jan-Mallander, CC)

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