Infertility affects more than 45 million couples worldwide. Over 40 percent of fertility problems are due to poor quality sperm.
The technology described in the journal Science Translational Medicine aims to make it easier and cheaper for men to test their sperm at home.
“We wanted to come up with a solution to make male infertility testing as simple and affordable as home pregnancy tests,” said co-author Hadi Shafiee, a doctor in the division of engineering in medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“Men have to provide semen samples in these rooms at a hospital, a situation in which they often experience stress, embarrassment, pessimism and disappointment.”
The new test, however, “can analyze a video of an undiluted, unwashed semen sample in less than five seconds.”
It works by using a combination of an optical attachment that can connect to a smartphone and a disposable device for loading a semen sample, said the report.
Researchers tested the device using 350 semen specimens at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center.
The smartphone-based device detected abnormal semen samples — based on World Health Organization thresholds on sperm concentration and motility — with an accuracy of 98 percent.
The cost of the materials used to assemble it came to $4.45.
“The ability to bring point-of-care sperm testing to the consumer, or health facilities with limited resources, is a true game changer,” said co-author John Petrozza, and director of the MGH Fertility Center.
“This development will provide faster and improved access to fertility care.”
The device is not yet available to the public and is still in the prototype stage.
Researchers are planning additional tests before filing for US Food and Drug Administration approval.