According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) a study of male infertility by the National Survey of Family Growth found that 7.5% of all sexually experienced men younger than age 45 reported seeing a fertility doctor during their lifetime. Of those who sought help, 18 percent were diagnosed with a male fertility problem. John Petrozza, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center, reports that sperm abnormalities cause difficulty in conceiving for more than 40 percent of infertile couples.
Petrozza and Hadi Shafiee of the Division of Engineering in Medicine and Renal Division of Harvard-related Brigham and Women’s Hospital are developing a smartphone-based male fertility diagnostic test that can be used to measure semen quality. According to the investigators, the semen analyzer correctly identifies abnormal samples approximately 98 percent of the time. The home-based test is based on a microchip that will cost less than $5 to produce in quantity. Home semen analysis promises to relieve men of the stress, embarrassment, pessimism, and disappointment often associated with current clinical tests, according to Shafiee. The test, which can analyze a semen sample in under 5 seconds, uses the phone’s camera and an app running on a smartphone.
Currently in the prototype stage, the scientists intend to carry out more testing and file for FDA approval for the as-yet unnamed product. The team expects the final product to sell for under $50. Additional uses for the device and software include vasectomy checks, semen quality checks by animal breeders, as well as testing blood and saliva samples.