CLOSE
M.K. Kanakasabapathy et al., Science Translational Medicine (2017)
M.K. Kanakasabapathy et al., Science Translational Medicine (2017)

This Smartphone Attachment Can Test Male Fertility

M.K. Kanakasabapathy et al., Science Translational Medicine (2017)
M.K. Kanakasabapathy et al., Science Translational Medicine (2017)

A smartphone that can evaluate semen quality sounds like the set-up to a joke. We promise it’s not only real, but a potential game-changer for couples dealing with infertility concerns. Researchers in Boston at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital announced today that their smartphone-based semen analyzer can spot abnormal samples with 98 percent accuracy.

The results, published today in Science Translational Medicine, could bring new hope to the estimated 45 million couples and 12 percent of men worldwide who grapple with infertility. Normally, identifying sperm concentration and sperm motility requires submitting semen samples in clinical settings that can prove embarrassing or uncomfortable for men. Developed by Brigham and Women's researchers in conjunction with colleagues from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, the analyzer lets them test samples in the privacy of their own home, with results available in under five seconds.

Brigham

Here's how it works. The analyzer has a microchip-equipped, microfluidic slide with a disposable tip that's dipped into the semen sample. The slide is then inserted into an optical device that fits over a smartphone camera, which takes video of the sample. The software then analyzes the video to assess sperm concentration and motility, while a wireless scale measures total sperm count. If the results are abnormal (defined by the World Health Organization as sperm concentrations under 15 million sperm/ml and/or motility under 40 percent), the tester can talk to a doctor for potential treatment.

In a study of 350 samples, abnormal samples were correctly identified 98 percent of the time.

The device is also suitable for men who have undergone vasectomies and need to monitor the efficacy of the operation. Eventually, the researchers hope to explore the technology for use with blood and saliva samples. They currently have no timeline for when the device will be commercially available, but they expect to seek Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approval following additional tests.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
language
The Surprising Link Between Language and Depression
iStock
iStock

Skim through the poems of Sylvia Plath, the lyrics of Kurt Cobain, or posts on an internet forum dedicated to depression, and you'll probably start to see some commonalities. That's because there's a particular way that people with clinical depression communicate, whether they're speaking or writing, and psychologists believe they now understand the link between the two.

According to a recent study published in Clinical Psychological Science, there are certain "markers" in a person's parlance that may point to symptoms of clinical depression. Researchers used automated text analysis methods to comb through large quantities of posts in 63 internet forums with more than 6400 members, searching for certain words and phrases. They also noted average sentence length, grammatical patterns, and other factors.

What researchers found was that a person's use (or overuse) of first-person pronouns can provide some insight into the state of their mental health. People with clinical depression tend to use more first-person singular pronouns, such as "I" and "me," and fewer third-person pronouns, like "they," "he," or "she." As Mohammed Al-Mosaiwi, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Reading and the head of the study, writes in a post for IFL Science:

"This pattern of pronoun use suggests people with depression are more focused on themselves, and less connected with others. Researchers have reported that pronouns are actually more reliable in identifying depression than negative emotion words."

What remains unclear, though, is whether people who are more focused on themselves tend to depression, or if depression turns a person's focus on themselves. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people with depression also use more negative descriptors, like "lonely" and "miserable."

But, Al-Mosaiwi notes, it's hardly the most important clue when using language to assess clinical depression. Far better indicators, he says, are the presence of "absolutist words" in a person's speech or writing, such as "always," "constantly," and "completely." When overused, they tend to indicate that someone has a "black-and-white view of the world," Al-Mosaiwi says. An analysis of posts on different internet forums found that absolutist words were 50 percent more prevalent on anxiety and depression forums, and 80 percent more prevalent on suicidal ideation forums.

Researchers hope these types of classifications, supported by computerized methods, will prove more and more beneficial in a clinical setting.

[h/t IFL Science]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Health
Just 5 Alcoholic Drinks a Week Could Shorten Your Lifespan
iStock
iStock

Wine lovers were elated when a scientific study last year suggested that drinking a glass of wine a day could help them live longer. Now a new study, published in The Lancet, finds that having more than 100 grams of alcohol a week (the amount in about five glasses of wine or pints of beer) could be detrimental to your health.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the British Heart Foundation studied the health data of nearly 600,000 drinkers in 19 countries and found that five to 10 alcoholic drinks a week (yes, red wine included) could shave six months off the life of a 40-year-old.

The penalty is even more severe for those who have 10 to 15 drinks a week (shortening a person’s life by one to two years), and those who imbibe more than 18 drinks a week could lose four to five years of their lives. In other words, your lifespan could be shortened by half an hour for every drink over the daily recommended limit, according to The Guardian, making it just as risky as smoking.

"The paper estimates a 40-year-old drinking four units a day above the guidelines [the equivalent of drinking three glasses of wine in a night] has roughly two years' lower life expectancy, which is around a 20th of their remaining life," David Spiegelhalter, a statistician at the University of Cambridge who was not involved with the study, tells The Guardian. "This works out at about an hour per day. So it's as if each unit above guidelines is taking, on average, about 15 minutes of life, about the same as a cigarette."

[h/t The Guardian]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios