A team of scientists has developed a new smartphone accessory that can determine if a man is fertile or not. A study has also demonstrated that the gadget is 98 percent accurate, and researchers are looking for ways to expand this technology.
The accessory consists of a removable attachment that connects to the smartphone and works in parallel with a mobile app. The sperm sample is introduced in the attachment while the application is in charge of analyzing it. Scientists stated that this innovation could be the next step to produce home pregnancy tests that are trustable and accurate. A recent research showed that about 45 million couples worldwide present fertility problems. Among those numbers, men are responsible for 30 percent of the fertility issues overall and contribute to the other 50 percent of the cases.
That survey was conducted by the U.S. Institutes of Health and published in the journal PLOS Medicine in 2012. However, the World Health Organization issued a report in 2015 that established that more than 70 million couples present infertility problems worldwide. A different study published in 2014 assures that 15 percent of all couples present this type of issue.
This brand new fertility technology seeks to avoid embarrassment
One of the main reasons why men are not aware of their fertility problems has to do with the embarrassment they feel when they go to a urology clinic. This issue was detected by the research team and its leading author Dr. Hadi Shafiee, an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
One of the key characteristics that can define fertility issues in men is the sperm count. If it is considerably low, then that could mean a serious problem. Specialized equipment needed to determine for sure if a man is fertile is valued in $100,000. Patients can also appeal to expert technicians capable of making a diagnosis, and either way, it represents a high cost for them.
“Fertility is a big problem. Men are embarrassed to go to their urologist for infertility testing. This is going to be the first fully automated device to make infertility testing as simple as home pregnancy tests for women. It will help couples,” Shafiee told CNN this Thursday.
This new device might come in the precise moment since it could reduce the cost of the process and avoid the embarrassment factor for men. Right now, a fertility exam could cost a patient between $150 and $350, while this new attachment only has a production cost of $5 and it should be offered in the market for not much more than $50.
How does this device work?
The team of scientists was able to test the new attachment in over 350 sperm samples that were not washed or processed, which is a mandatory condition according to the guidelines provided by the World Health Organization.
The attachment could identify abnormalities present in the selected samples in more than 97 percent of the cases. The specific characteristics found in the samples were related to the sperm mobility and concentration, which are critical factors to identify infertility in a man.
The principal objective for the team is to develop a faster system than the ones available in the market. Most couples have to wait about 12 months to be entirely sure if they present infertility issues.
According to the study, this new device is a mix of hardware and software innovational technologies. It is composed of a removable kit and a chip made for the collection of the samples. These recollections are inserted in the chip that has LED illumination and specialized lenses to facilitate the camera’s work at the time of analyzing the samples.
The mechanism consists of the camera recording a short video of the sperm and the movement presented within the chip, ergo, the motility of the sperm. Afterward, the system uses an algorithm that can identify the respective motility and define if it is in normal conditions.
The regular mobility presented at fertile sperm samples is superior to 40 percent, while normal sperm concentrations levels stand in numbers higher than 15 million per milliliter. If the results are not within those standards, the patient could present fertility issues.
“The results don’t mean that if there is a negative result, the person is infertile,” Shafiee said. “There could be enough for IVF or other treatment technologies.”
Shafiee stated that his team wants to keep the development going to get the FDA approval as soon as possible. His opinion is that it should not take too long since the mechanism used in the device is not complex.
The new technology is also oriented toward helping urologists since the simplicity of the system would contribute to the monitoring of patients, since research team is aware of the awkwardness surrounding clinic fertility rooms for both doctors and patients,