Sat, Sep 19, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Local scientists develop sperm efficiency test kit

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

National Taiwan University on Thursday unveiled a male fertility home test kit that breaks new ground by measuring the efficiency of sperm cells — a key factor in determining men’s ability to father children.

Andrew Wo (胡文聰), a professor at NTU’s Institute of Applied Mechanics, said that although five different semen test kits for household use are available around the world, most of them can only measure sperm concentration.

Some of the kits even require the use of a microscope for the analysis, he said.

The new invention, created through the use of microfluidic technology, however, is easier to use and produces more accurate results, Wo said.

BIOCHIP

To conduct the test, users are required to let fresh semen sit for 30 minutes before dropping the specimen onto the biochip, Wo said.

The method can precisely measure the sperm count per milliliter of semen, as well as the mobility of the sperm, without the need for a microscope or a hospital visit, he said.

“Infertility is often caused by lifestyle factors, such as stress or tobacco use. So if people change their lifestyles, they will be able to use the kit to monitor their progress,” he said.

Wo said he expected the product to appeal to women who feel they are being blamed for childless marriages.

“Maybe they think it’s not their fault and they’ll buy the kit for their husbands to show they’re right,” he said.

PROTOTYPE

With the research team having already spent five years on developing the sperm-counting technology alone, the prototype is expected to be produced next year, paving the way for its market debut in December 2011, Wo said.

He said he envisaged the biochip being sold in pharmacies and convenience stores to make it as easily accessible to consumers as pregnancy test kits.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP

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