There are a lot of tests that can already be done at home around fertility - pregnancy tests obviously, also ovulation and other tests to help conceive - but they are all for women. Male infertility remains more taboo despite the fact it is the cause of 30-40% of the inability to conceive and affects a growing number of men across the world.
Being able to quickly and cheaply do a test at home will help men who are reluctant to go to the doctor or who are worrying about their fertility in private.
The test was developed by researchers at America’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital along with Massachusetts General Hospital. It uses the camera and processing power of a smartphone to look at a sample of semen. The kit consists of an attachment to the phone and a microchip that is inserted. The whole thing currently costs less than $5.
"We wanted to come up with a solution to make male infertility testing as simple and affordable as home pregnancy tests. This test is low-cost, quantitative, highly accurate and can analyze a video of an undiluted, unwashed semen sample in less than five seconds," said Dr Hadi Shafiee, senior author of the study.
The test measures sperm concentration for a traditional “sperm count” check and also sperm motility, which checks how well the sperm can move. There are other factors in male infertility, including testosterone levels and sperm viability, that the test cannot check. But it remains a huge and positive step forward for the fight against male infertility.
One irony is the use of a mobile phone in the test. More and more research is coming out that shows mobile phones are responsible for damage to sperm and male infertility. The electromagnetic radiation that powers phones and their communication can pass through the body and some scientists have described it as “cooking” sperm.
But mobile phones are hugely important and useful in modern life - not least as this new device shows. We can adapt and one of the ways we can do that is by using anti-radiation technology like WaveWall cases that shield the body from harmful radiation while leaving the phone able to be used normally.
Do you think a home test for male infertility will catch on?
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