Researchers are hoping to change that with a prototype for an inexpensive device that attaches directly to your phone, letting it analyze semen samples.
The researchers, from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, described their invention in a paper published in Science Translational Medicine this week. The battery-powered attachment, which was 3D printed using an Ultimaker 2 printer, contains an LED and lenses borrowed from CD and DVD drives. It's designed to hold a disposable microchip that contains the semen sample.
Once the sample is inserted, the attachment is fitted to the camera lens of the smartphone, in this case a Motorola Moto X running Android 6.0. The app then records records a series of one-second videos at 30fps, which it analyzes using image-detection algorithms that record the movement of sperm across the frames.
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The total cost for the materials, according to the New York Times, is less than $5, including $3.59 for the optical attachment and 86 cents for the chip that holds the semen sample. The researchers think the design's low cost and ease of use for anyone familiar with an Android phone could help it gain traction in African countries, where access to medical care is difficult and stigmas about male infertility persist.
"There are ovulation test kits for women, but so far nothing for men," Hadi Shafiee, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard, told the Times. "With this device at home, a man can avoid the embarrassment and stress of providing a sample in a doctor's office. This can be the next step."
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