A smartphone attachment now enables men to test their sperm count at home, much like an at-home pregnancy kit.
It used to be that a man needed to go to a doctor's office or fertility clinic to have his sperm counted and analyzed. But that's about to change, thanks to a research team lead by Hadi Shafiee, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, who developed a fertility diagnostic tool that uses a smartphone and an app.
To use the tool, a man loads a sample amount of semen onto a disposable microchip. (Gotta love a good hygienic moment.) Then, he puts the microchip into the cell phone attachment through a slot, which basically turns the phone camera into a microscope. (Related: What Ob-Gyns Wish Women Knew About Their Fertility)
When he runs the app, he's given a veritable movie of the semen sample (because it's a video camera, the microscope records the whole thing) and the sperm swimming inside it. The app offers insights on both the sperm count and sperm motility, both indicators of fertility. Because yes, this whole thing seems so incredibly simple, the Harvard team compared the results of more than 350 semen samples of both infertile and fertile men with both the app and current medical lab equipment available. The research, which they published in Science Translational Medicine, found a crazy-impressive 98 percent accuracy with the smartphone device, which Shafiee confirmed testing subjects were able to use comfortably at home without any issues.
The cell phone attachment is currently designed for use with Android devices, but Shafiee and his team are already working on an iPhone version. And because it costs the lab a mere $5 to manufacture each unit, this low-cost way of measuring infertility could be a major boost when it comes to accessible public health for all. (A recent study also confirmed access to low-cost pregnancy tests is key to helping minimize fetal alcohol exposure.) However, the device still has to be FDA-approved, which means you won't see these on store shelves just quite yet. If you're concerned about fertility, seek out the advice of a medical expert—something that should always be your first step.