Researchers develop smartphone accessory to test sperm viability

Being touted as the male equivalent of the at-home pregnancy test

Researchers develop smartphone accessory to test sperm viability

Credit: Shafiee Lab

More than 45 million couples around the world will struggle with infertility. While some of the procedures to address issues can be incredibly expensive, investigators at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital set out to develop home-based diagnostic tests.

The test they have developed can measure the quality of semen with a smartphone accessory. The team’s findings show the device can identify ‘abnormal’ semen samples based upon the sperm concentration and mobility, with 98% accuracy.

Details of their research have been published online on Science Translational Medicine’s website

“We wanted to come up with a solution to make male infertility testing as simple and affordable as home pregnancy tests,” said Hadi Shafiee, a principal investigator in the Division of Engineering in Medicine and Renal Division of Medicine at BWH. “Men have to provide semen samples in these rooms at a hospital, a situation in which they often experience stress, embarrassment, pessimism, and disappointment. Current clinical tests are lab-based, time-consuming, and subjective. This test is low-cost, quantitative, highly accurate, and can analyse a video of an undiluted, unwashed semen sample in less than five seconds.”

The device is made up of an optical attachment, which connects to a smartphone and a disposable add-on where the semen sample is loaded. The device is then controlled via an application that guides the user through each step.

The analyser is currently in a prototyping stage. The team plans to perform additional tests and will file for FDA approval.