For one reason or another, guys are a little shy when it comes to talking about their fertility. It’s relatively expensive, awkward, requires the off-putting setting of a medical clinic, and comes with a fair share of cultural stigma in many parts of the world. However, a new smartphone app and a cheap gadget might be able to change that.
Researchers have developed an inexpensive smartphone attachment and app that is able to detect abnormal samples of men’s squiggly little troops with 98 percent accuracy in seconds. The device has recently been featured in the peer-reviewed journal Science Translational Medicine.
The optical attachment simply clips onto a smartphone and aligns with the rear camera. You then slot in a disposable device that contains the semen sample and the application’s software analyzes the data obtained from the camera. It’s based on the World Health Organization's criteria, which defines abnormal semen samples as less than 15 million sperm per milliliter and/or sperm motility of less than 40 percent.
Amazingly, it all costs just $4.45 to make. The researchers even made the optical attachment out of sensors from DVD players and CD drives.
M.K. Kanakasabapathy et al., Science Translational Medicine (2017)
"We wanted to come up with a solution to make male infertility testing as simple and affordable as home pregnancy tests," study author Hadi Shafiee from Harvard Medical School said in a statement. "Men have to provide semen samples in these rooms at a hospital, a situation in which they often experience stress, embarrassment, pessimism and disappointment. Current clinical tests are lab-based, time-consuming and subjective. This test is low-cost, quantitative, highly accurate and can analyze a video of an undiluted, unwashed semen sample in less than five seconds."
The device does have its drawbacks. For one, it’s unable to analyze features of the sperm, such as their size and shape, which could be an indication of some kind of infertility problem. The team is now seeking FDA approval for the device to allow it to become commercially available.
"More than 40 percent of infertile couples have difficulty conceiving due to sperm abnormalities and this development will provide faster and improved access to fertility care,” added John Petrozza, MD, study co-author and director of the MGH Fertility Center. "The ability to bring point-of-care sperm testing to the consumer, or health facilities with limited resources, is a true game changer."