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Now, a home fertility test for sperm count!

world Updated: Feb 09, 2010 13:22 IST

Have you ever been curious about your sperm count? If so, a home fertility test could be just the right course, say scientists.

An international team, led by University of Twente in Enschede, the Netherlands, has developed a home test kit -- a 10-centimetre-long "lab-on-a-chip" -- which can well determine male fertility in just seconds, the 'New Scientist' reported.

At present, the male fertility test in a laboratory is a lengthy process in which ejaculation is submitted within an hour - which generally precludes men from producing the sample at home - and once submitted, a manual count is done for the spermatozoa concentration analysis.

"(But) With our system we overcome these problems," Loes Segerink, who led the team, was quoted as saying.

In the kit, the microfluidic chip contains a tiny channel through which spermatozoa are drawn by pressure flow. The sample is first doped with a concentration of polystyrene beads, and as beads and cells are drawn along the channel they pass between two electrodes, altering electrical impedance.

The chip tallies the electrical perturbations due to the beads and cells, and comparing bead concentration to that of the spermatozoa provides the sperm count, the team says.

According to Segerink, the chip could take just 12 seconds to determine sperm concentration with the same measurement error as a manual count.

But while she stresses that the chip would be used as part of hospital-run fertility treatment, it could be adapted to produce a cheap and easy-to-use version for self-diagnosis at home.

Howver, Michael Dunn, a healthcare ethics researcher at the University of Oxford, said this is a concern. "There would be the potential for harm to be caused to patients if they were not provided with the relevant information about the impact of a positive result for infertility."