A New Smartphone Device Can Measure Your Sperm Quality

It could be a game changer for couples struggling with infertility.

semen test

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A staggering number of couples struggle to conceive. And although it takes two to tango—and more than 40 percent of infertility issues can be traced back to the man—many tests and treatments focus on women. Even those that are meant for men are often expensive and inaccessible.

That’s why Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Massachusetts General Hospital researchers created an at-home test for sperm quality. The smartphone-based gadget flags abnormal semen samples with 98 percent accuracy, according to a paper published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine.

The setup consists of an “optical attachment” that hooks up to a smartphone, and a disposable microfluidic device that works a bit like an eyedropper. It’s outfitted with a rubber bulb at one end, and on the other, a tip that can suction liquid out of a sample cup and into the device.

All a user needs to do is draw some of the sample into the device, and detach the tip. The chip is then removed and inserted into the smartphone-synced attachment. In just five seconds, an accompanying app analyzes the semen for sperm quality, count, and mobility, offering a user-friendly report. (The whole process is demonstrated in the video below.)

“We wanted to come up with a solution to make male infertility testing as simple and affordable as home pregnancy tests,” explains Hadi Shafiee, a principal investigator in the Division of Engineering in Medicine and Renal Division of Medicine at BWH. “This test is low-cost, quantitative, highly accurate, and can analyze a video of an undiluted, unwashed semen sample in less than five seconds.”

Before the system hits the market, researchers will need to complete more testing, then file for FDA approval. But if it clears those hurdles, the device may be a game changer for couples struggling to conceive. (It could also be used by men recovering from vasectomies, who currently have to endure several follow-up visits to make sure the operation was successful.) The product could even work with blood and saliva samples, greatly broadening its applications.

To see how the system works, check out the video below: