Fertility Chip Could Herald New Era Of Hands-On Home Testing

Gentlemen, are you shooting blanks or are you ready to continue your family line another generation? Before, answering that question required a trip to the doctors. Today, a Dutch researcher says the test could eventually be, ahem, in your hands.

The researcher is Loes Segerink, of the University of Twente in the Netherlands, and what she's created is a "fertility chip" that measures the two most important things when it comes to sperm potency: concentration and mobility. Concentration is a numbers game: It takes just one sperm to make a baby, but getting them to the egg is an arduous task (for them, not you, stud) that requires about 20 to 150 million per quarter teaspoon. Lower than that, and it's often no cigar for you and your significant other.

On the mobility side, it's simple: Slow, dim-witted sperm swimming slowly or not at all are also not going to result in the miracle of life.

Previous tests like Segreink's were able to measure concentration but did not factor in mobility. With Segerink's help, now we mat soon have this performing home tests for eager parents-to-be someday:

[T]he sperm flows past a liquid-filled channel on the chip beneath electrode "bridges." When cells pass beneath these bridges, a brief fluctuation in electrical resistance occurs. By counting these events, the chip is counting sperm.

To test whether her chip was reading any particles at all, not just sperm, Segerink added tiny microspheres of liquid. The system was selective enough to distinguish sperm from these spheres, as well as to distinguish white blood cells from other bodies.

Segerink will be defending her work in November as part of a doctoral dissertation. [CNET]

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