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Don't Use This Sperm Counter On Your Phone While FaceTiming

There's a new, cheap way to see if your little guys are swimming, and it's on your smart phone.
Image: Vignesh Natarajan

More than 45 million couples struggle with infertility worldwide. And while women are often burdened with that label alone, about 40 percent of the time, it's due to a male's malfunctioning sperm.

Current testing for diagnosing male infertility, however, is labor intensive and can cost up to $300 per test. But a team of medical scientists in Boston are hoping to solve that with, you guessed it, a smartphone. Medical professionals are hoping the portable tester can help get around the obstacles of high lab costs and social stigmas that get in the way of identifying infertile males. Their findings are published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The device works as follows: a disposable microchip that can hold minute amounts of fluids is dipped into a semen sample, and then slid into a smartphone attachment about the size of an external battery pack. The device analyzes the sample in less than five seconds for sperm abnormalities. An app guides the patient through testing and stores results on the phone itself, so patients can share them with a doctor. In clinical trials, volunteers correctly diagnosed samples with 98 percent accuracy.

Fertilex system. Image: Vignesh Natarajan

This device is in the prototyping phase, but the team plan on filing for FDA approval. The whole thing cost researchers a whopping $4.45. "We wanted to come up with a solution to make male infertility testing as simple and affordable as home pregnancy tests," said Hadi Shafiee, lead author and medical engineer at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts in a public statement.

As infertility treatments continue to grow and develop, this could help keep costs low, and take at least some of the stress out of figuring out whether or not you can conceive.