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New Fertility Test for Men May Help Couples Struggling to Conceive

The research hopes to bridge a gap in information to help couples trying to conceive make informed decisions.
ByNehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
July 23, 2020
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Image: Getty Images

Infertility affects up to 15 percent of couples around the world, and men contribute to approximately half the cases. Now, a team of researchers at Cornell is hoping to help couples struggling to conceive with their new fertility test for men.

The Cap-Score test is a diagnostic tool that’s been approved to use by medical doctors in all 50 states. It aims to provide better information on which men might need treatment and which couples might benefit from different forms of assisted reproductive technology.

“The ‘Cap-Score’ test is designed to provide information on the man’s fertility that they never had before,” Dr. Alexander Travis, professor of reproductive biology at the Baker Institute for Animal Health and the test’s inventor, stated in a press release. “Now the doctors can discuss these results with the couple, and help them choose the personalized treatment pathway that is right for them to try to get pregnant, including how to improve the man’s fertility.”

The test looks at the sperm’s ability to undergo “capacitation,” a process that allows the sperm to fertilize an egg. According to the press release, only sperm that can go through this process are capable of fertilizing, yet traditional male fertility tests rely mostly on semen analysis, which counts sperm, assess whether they look normal and can swim.

“Fertility exists in degrees; as long as a man produces some sperm that swim, he has some level of fertility. But it is the functional ability of those sperm to fertilize an egg that influences the odds that a couple will become pregnant,” Travis continued.

As part of their research, the team looked at Cap-Score results from over 2,000 men undergoing fertility exams across 22 clinics. They compared these findings with a control group of fertile men with a baby or a pregnant partner. They found that many of the men undergoing fertility testing had scores that fell below the average of the fertile population.

“Men are often assumed to be fertile if they have enough normal-looking sperm that swim, but we found that almost two-thirds of the men who had low Cap-Scores passed the traditional semen analysis,” Travis said in the release. “Couples and doctors have had to make important decisions about their fertility without all the information they needed. This has caused a lot of anxiety and pain–physically, financially and emotionally.”

According to the report, most male infertility cases go unexplained due to insufficient diagnostic testing, placing women with the responsibility of getting invasive and expensive testing. The researchers state that the lack of testing may also leave couples to opt for costly procedures that may not be appropriate for their actual situation. They hope the Cap-Score test can help to bridge some of the gaps and help couples make informed decisions.

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