A Novel Platform for Screening Non-Hormonal Contraceptives
Jianjun Sun of the University of Connecticut in the U.S. is developing non-hormonal contraceptives using a fly-based ovulation assay to identify compounds that specifically block the rupture of follicles, which is required to release eggs for fertilization also in mammals. The popular female contraceptive "pill" alters the hormonal cycle and is widely used throughout the Western world. However, it can have undesirable side effects. In Phase I, they developed a medium-throughput follicle rupture assay using Drosophila follicles and showed that three out of four drugs inhibiting Drosophila follicle rupture had the same effect in mice. They discovered that these drugs also inhibited the production of superoxide, which promotes follicle rupture. Building on this new knowledge, in Phase II, they will develop a high-throughput luminescence-based superoxide-detection assay in Drosophila and screen 13,000 compounds. Top hits will again be validated for activity also in mice, and they will further identify their cellular mechanisms of action using available genetic tools in Drosophila.