Home test for sperm count raises ethical concerns

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London, Feb 9 (ANI): A new lab-on-the-chip technique, which could determine male fertility in few seconds, has raised ethical issues as researchers feel that diagnosis without professional advice could do more harm than good.

Male fertility analysis could be embarrassing and even time consuming for the person. The ejaculate must be submitted for analysis within an hour - which generally precludes men from producing the sample at home - and once submitted, a lengthy manual count remains the "gold standard" for spermatozoa concentration analysis.

"With our system we overcome these problems," New Scientist quoted Loes Segerink from the MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Twente in Enschede.

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

The chip could provide results in just 12 seconds.

However, some of the researchers feel that the chip could be adapted to produce a cheap and easy-to-use version for self-diagnosis at home.

Self-diagnosis could be harmful if the patient does not understand the impact of a positive result.

"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," said Michael Dunn, a healthcare ethics researcher at the University of Oxford. (ANI)

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