If you thought your smartphone was just for texting, scrolling through memes on Instagram, and impromptu Google searches, think again. Couples trying (or not trying) to conceive could soon use another app to help them with their family planning needs. Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital recently created a new male fertility app that can easily and discreetly track and analyze a man's sperm with the help of a few phone accessories, eliminating the need to visit the doctor's office to have a pricey test done and producing a sperm sample in an awkward setting.
The process is pretty simple: The user employs a little device that looks like a tiny turkey baster to put a semen sample onto a disposable microchip. That chip is then inserted into a specially-designed phone case that essentially turns the phone’s camera into a microscope. From there, the Android-based app (researchers are working on a version that would work with iPhones as well) will automatically detect the sample swimmers’ mobility, speed, and movements with up to 98 percent accuracy, according to a new study. The researchers wrote in the journal Science Translational Medicine that this new technology could make male fertility testing as “accessible, easy, fast, and private” as a home pregnancy test.
Okay, so it's a bit more complicated than a home pregnancy test, but it still looks pretty easy. See for yourself:
Not only could this kit — which will likely cost users around $50 — be useful for couples who struggle with infertility, but it could also help men (and their families) who have recently undergone a vasectomy to make sure it was successful without returning to the doctor for an expensive and time-consuming test.
As it turns out, a lot of men skip these follow-up appointments anyway. “Post-vasectomy compliance testing is actually very poor,” Hadi Shafiee, senior author of the study, told STAT.
Don’t expect to buy this sperm analysis kit tomorrow though. It isn’t available on the market just yet because it still needs to get the green light from the Food and Drug Administration and researchers need to start production. It’s also important to note that this isn’t the first at-home fertility test for men developed recently, but the Harvard team is the first to be able “to determine sperm concentration as well as motility,” according to NPR.
The idea is to make male infertility testing as simple, common, and affordable as home pregnancy and ovulation tests for women. And it could certainly use a bit more attention considering that male infertility is a condition that's neglected worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. But, once this app is available for download and purchase, couples can hopefully tackle their fertility questions together in the comfort of their own homes.