That’s right! A team of researchers developed a smartphone compatible device, and app, which allows men to determine the motility and concentration of their sperm – fertility.1 Male fertility is a grossly under-appreciated concern, which often is overlooked when a couple is having difficulty conceiving. Men are often sensitive to this issue, and the current process of testing male fertility may seem daunting or uncomfortable to many. A smartphone app which allows a man to test his own fertility at home could really be a game changer.

How it Works

The phone device attaches to a smartphone and works with an app that was created to measure the number and motility of the sperm. The process involves loading a small amount of semen onto a disposable microchip and inserting it into the phone attachment, through a small slot. The attachment turns the camera on the phone into a microscope. After the sample is in, the app takes a video of the sample. This records and analyzes the sperm. The semen does not actually touch the smartphone.

Results With 98% Accuracy

The research team has compared the smartphone sperm tracker against current lab diagnostic equipment, side by side. 350 semen samples of both fertile and infertile men were analyzed. The smartphone app was able to identify abnormal sperm with 98% accuracy. The research team also assessed whether the device would be able to be operated by the lay population, and found that both trained and untrained individuals could operate the device with ease.

Multi-Functional: Post-Vasectomy Testing

In addition to being able to test fertility, the device could be valuable in post-vasectomy testing. Men are supposed to have sperm testing performed after a vasectomy procedure to ensure sterility. However, most men do not keep these appointments. Sending them home with a device that would make the testing simple and stress-free could vastly improve outcome measures. It could also change the atmosphere around male fertility testing in general and could be utilized in a primary care setting, alleviating specialists for these procedures.

Designed for Androids; iPhone Isn’t Far Behind

The attachment is currently designed for Android devices, but iPhone models are being created. The device costs around five dollars to make in the laboratory setting. The next step is gaining FDA approval, but the research team is confident that when it is ready for the consumer market, it will be available for under $50.

Source:

  1. Kanakasabapathy MK, Sadasivam M, Singh A, et al. An automated smartphone-based diagnostic assay for point-of-care semen analysis. Sci Transl Med. 2017;9(382)

Node Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision. 

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