The National Institutes of Health is spending over $300,000 performing "in-home semen testing," which will pay men $20 for their samples as part of a study hoping to fight infertility.
Boston University is conducting the "Feasibility of In-Home Semen Testing" project, which was awarded on Dec. 1.
"The prevalence of impaired fecundity has been increasing over the last decade and few modifiable risk factors for infertility have been identified," according to the grant for the project. "Male factor contributes to 50 [percent] of all infertility."
The researchers said they want to broaden the pool of semen testing, which they said normally only takes place in fertility treatment centers, "thereby limiting generalizability."
"The enrollment of large numbers of men from the general population prior to conception represents a unique opportunity to assess the feasibility of in-home semen testing," the grant states.
The NIH previously awarded the researchers $337,483 for a study that recruited couples wanting to conceive online and tracked how long it took them to get pregnant. Now, taking from a group of over 1,200 recruited men from the previous project, the researchers will pay men $20 to have their sperm tested at home.
The home kits will allow for "repeated measures of sperm concentration, sperm motility, and semen volume."
"Subjects will send test results back to investigators via a secure smartphone application," the grant states.
The project has received $302,331 in taxpayer-funding so far. Research will continue through November 2019.
In all, 300 men will provide "semen data." The researchers will "compare the distributions of semen parameters with data from the Stanford infertility clinic and the World Health Organization."
Semen quality will be evaluated in relation to obesity, stress, and depression.
"We have already shown that appreciable numbers of men are willing to enroll in our preconception cohort study, that men are willing to participate in the proposed protocol for $20, and that the semen data are within the range expected for the general population," the researchers said.
Still, the researchers are unsure how acceptable mass in-home sperm testing will be.
"The extent to which large scale in-home semen testing will be acceptable to a geographically heterogeneous cohort of men who are not seeking fertility treatment is unknown," the grant states. "The investigation of men representing the full spectrum of fertility is critical for validly evaluating the role of lifestyle and behavioral factors on fertility."
The researchers hope that widespread semen testing could be "paradigm-shifting" for male reproductive health.
"If the proposed in-home semen testing methods are shown to be feasible, the inclusion of such methods in future epidemiologic investigations could be paradigm-shifting for the study of male reproductive health," the grant states.