A new invention could soon allow men to test their semen in the privacy of their own homes, without having to go to a fertility clinic. It’s not even a high-tech device – it’s something that turns a smartphone camera into a microscope that can then allow a man to check on his swimmers with a surprising 98% accuracy.
There are around 45 million couples around the world struggling with infertility. In almost half of these cases, it’s the man who has a problem, The Verge reports. But testing semen is a lengthy process that requires manual analysis either by a trained technician or through expensive equipment. It can cost from $150 to $350.
This device has the potential to make the test simpler and far less awkward. It’s a smartphone attachment that makes use of a disposable microchip and runs on an app. It was created on a 3D printer and cost less than $5 to make.
Fertility tests are more accessible to women, especially when it comes to over-the-counter products. For men, the choices are limited. The FDA-approved products out there only analyze how many sperm cells are in the semen. The higher the sperm count, the better the chances of fertilization. But it’s also important to see how much movement there is in the sperm, called sperm motility. No movement equals no fertilization.
That’s where the new device is different – it analyzes both how many sperm cells are there and the percentage of sperm motility.
The smartphone attachment slides onto a smartphone’s camera so that it turns into a microscope. The semen is collected in a cup, and a disposable chip is dipped in it. The microchip goes into the smartphone attachment, and the app takes a video of the semen. Within five seconds, the results are out.
The researchers tested the whole thing on 350 semen samples and found that it was accurate 98% of the time. More than half of the samples were correctly tested by people who had no training in the field, meaning the device can be used by anyone.
Hadi Shafiee, an assistant professor in medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, says, “Our technology has a lot of advantages. It’s pretty convenient.”
The device is expected to get FDA approval in the next two to three years, and will only cost around $50.
The study was published in Science Translational Medicine.