There may soon be a low-cost and accessible home fertility test for men. All you'll need are the test device, a smartphone, and, well, sperm.
A new study shows that this device can function as a highly accurate and easy-to-use fertility test for men. The researchers and authors of the study are also the makers of the device.
Sperm abnormalities cause about 40% of fertility issues among couples who are struggling to conceive. According to the researchers, many men don't undergo fertility tests because of a lack of resources. Some are also concerned about social stigma. Either way, they decide against getting a fertility test.
“Men have to provide semen samples in these rooms at a hospital, a situation in which they often experience stress, embarrassment, pessimism and disappointment,” said John Petrozza, one of the researchers.
Even medical facilities may not have access to equipment that assess sperm samples. Computer-assisted semen analysis systems cost $50,000 to $100,000, which may be more than smaller clinics can afford. Unfortunately, as of now, a fertility test for men isn't all that easy to obtain.
When the team put the device together, it cost them only about $4.45. They used spare parts from CD and DVD players, and came up with something that can be quite a “true game-changer”, if the researchers say so themselves.
Using the device is simple. It only has two components: a box-like piece that functions as the phone attachment, and a disposable chip that holds the sperm sample. First, you have to use a pipette to put the semen sample into the chip. You then plug the chip into the attachment connected to your smartphone. The attachment then makes your phone's camera function like a microscope, and the device's phone app will count the sperm in the sample. The results will appear on the phone's screen after about five seconds.
Of course, the team had to test if the device is easy to use even for people with no experience in this matter. Thus, to test the usability of the device, the researchers recruited 10 participants to try it out. The participants had no formal training in testing semen samples. Despite their lack of training, however, the participants managed to correctly classify over 100 samples using the device.
The researchers based this accuracy on guidelines set by the World Health Organization. According to the WHO, an abnormal sperm sample has 15 million sperm cells per milliliter of fluid. Another way to determine if the sample is abnormal is if less than 40% of the sperm are motile.
According to the reports in the study, the test can detect abnormalities with an accuracy of 98%.
The researchers hope that soon enough, these devices will be as accessible as home pregnancy tests. They aim to have the devices available for sale over the counter. As of now, a fertility test for men is time-consuming, lab-based, and not very accessible for many men. Hopefully, in the future, this device can make the test quick, doable at home, and low-cost.
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