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.

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MARS Bioimaging
The World's First Full-Color 3D X-Rays Have Arrived
MARS Bioimaging
MARS Bioimaging

The days of drab black-and-white, 2D X-rays may finally be over. Now, if you want to see what your broken ankle looks like in all its full-color, 3D glory, you can do so thanks to new body-scanning technology. The machine, spotted by BGR, comes courtesy of New Zealand-based manufacturer MARS Bioimaging.

It’s called the MARS large bore spectral scanner, and it uses spectral molecular imaging (SMI) to produce images that are fully colorized and in 3D. While visually appealing, the technology isn’t just about aesthetics—it could help doctors identify issues more accurately and provide better care.

Its pixel detectors, called “Medipix” chips, allow the machine to identify colors and distinguish between materials that look the same on regular CT scans, like calcium, iodine, and gold, Buzzfeed reports. Bone, fat, and water are also differentiated by color, and it can detect details as small as a strand of hair.

“It gives you a lot more information, and that’s very useful for medical imaging. It enables you to do a lot of diagnosis you can’t do otherwise,” Phil Butler, the founder/CEO of MARS Bioimaging and a physicist at the University of Canterbury, says in a video. “When you [have] a black-and-white camera photographing a tree with its leaves, you can’t tell whether the leaves are healthy or not. But if you’ve got a color camera, you can see whether they’re healthy leaves or diseased.”

The images are even more impressive in motion. This rotating image of an ankle shows "lipid-like" materials (like cartilage and skin) in beige, and soft tissue and muscle in red.

The technology took roughly a decade to develop. However, MARS is still working on scaling up production, so it may be some time before the machine is available commercially.

[h/t BGR]

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iStock
More Studies See Links Between Alzheimer's and Herpes
iStock
iStock

Although it was discovered in 1906, Alzheimer’s disease didn’t receive significant research attention until the 1970s. In 1984, scientists identified the plaque-like buildup of amyloid beta proteins in brain tissue that causes nerve damage and can lead to symptoms like memory loss, personality changes, and physical debility.

Now, researchers are learning why amyloid beta tends to collect in brain tissue like barnacles on a ship. It might not be rallying expressly to cause damage, but to protect the brain from another invader: the herpes simplex virus.

As The Atlantic recently noted, a number of studies have strengthened the notion that amyloid beta activity is working in response to herpes, the virus that travels along nerve pathways and typically causes cold sores around the mouth (HSV-1) or genitals (HSV-2). In a study involving mice, those engineered to produce more amyloid beta were more resistant to the herpes virus than those who were not.

But when too much amyloid beta is produced to combat the virus, the proteins can affect the brain’s neurons. And while herpes tends to target specific pathways in the body that result in external sores, it’s possible that the virus might act differently in an older population that is susceptible to more widespread infection. Roughly half of adults under age 50 in the U.S. are infected with HSV-1 and 12 percent with HSV-2, which suggests that a large swath of the population could be vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease. Two other strains of the virus, HHV-6A and HHV-7, have also been found to be more common in the brains of deceased Alzheimer’s patients than in the general population.

More research will be needed to further understand the possible relationship between the two. If more findings support the theory, then it’s possible that antiviral drugs or vaccines targeting herpes might also reduce the chances of amyloid beta buildup.

[h/t Atlantic]

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