Microscopy & Microtechniques

Can Men Test Fertility with an App?

Apr 16 2017 Comments 0

For obvious reasons, male fertility is an important issue. It determines whether some couples can conceive children. And with fertility testing, men can find out how likely that outcome is. We might be saying goodbye to visits to the doctor though. Male Smartphone users could soon be using a sperm measuring fertility app in the comfort of their own home, thanks to scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

A clip-on fertility test

In a recent trial, a gadget has been designed to clip onto a smartphone which is able to detect abnormal sperm samples with 98% accuracy.  The team involved constructed the device using spare parts from DVD and CD drives. It works by drawing semen into a disposable holder that is plugged into one side of the phone attachment. An app then takes a video of your semen, and seconds later it gives you results on the phone’s screen.

But does it work?

To test the device, researchers got ten untrained volunteers to use the app to identify the fertility levels of semen samples. They managed to classify over a hundred samples, which the team asserted is proof enough that Joe Bloggs will be able to use the device. “Our technology has a lot of advantages,” says study co-author Hadi Shafiee, an assistant professor in medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. “It’s pretty convenient.”

With more than 45 million couples worldwide grappling with infertility, this new app could be the first step to an inexpensive, less labour-intensive experience. Allowing more people access to sensitive fertility treatments without being subject to clinical surroundings.

A "true game-changer"

John Petrozza, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center and a co-author, described the device as a “true game-changer”. “Men have to provide semen samples in these rooms at a hospital, a situation in which they often experience stress, embarrassment, pessimism and disappointment,” he said.

Shafiee also highlights that the new device could assist people who are restricted by culture or religion from masturbation in a clinic. “Something like this device can be very instrumental to help the couple provide the sample at home with their partner,” he explains.

Developing technology

The smartphone-based analyser for semen analysis is currently undergoing further tests but and will file for FDA approval in the near future. If you enjoyed reading about this technological advancement, you might want to take a look at the article ‘JOEL TEM at Diamond’s Electron Physical Sciences Imaging Centre (ePSIC)’. Cutting edge technology is just one area of involvement for Diamond’s synchrotron facility, which – as discussed in the article – is continuing its development as a world-leading research facility.

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