NIH-funded study to use Trak, a home fertility test for men

By Jonah Comstock
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Sandstone Diagnostics’ Trak Male Fertility Testing System will be used in an NIH-funded study being conducted by Boston University and Stanford University, according to a statement. The Pregnancy Study Online (PRESTO) studies the effect of lifestyle factors on fertility, miscarriage, and birth outcomes.

“The Trak technology is revolutionizing our research,” Lauren Wise, professor of epidemiology at Boston University and co-principal investigator on the new study, said in a statement.  “Measuring semen parameters for epidemiological research has traditionally been very challenging. Trak provides a simple and accurate way for men to test their sperm privately at home, and the early results have been very encouraging.”

PRESTO is an ongoing study that has mostly enrolled women previously. Trak, a mail-order kit that provides men with everything they need to test their sperm count and motility at home, was used in a 40-person pilot study and will now be expanded to 300 male partners of female study participants.

Data from the pilot showed that men with a total sperm count less than 50 million had only 0.54 times the odds of conceiving in any given month than men with a total sperm count greater than or equal to 50 million.

Trak’s system, which will be shipped for free to study participants but normally sells for $199.99, is part of a novel approach to fertility testing. Not only does it focus on men rather than women and allow them to avoid the awkwardness, inconvenience, and expense of visiting a fertility clinic, but it also changes men’s preconceptions about pre-conception.

“Traditionally, sperm quality, and infertility has been treated as a static health condition where, if a couple has been trying long enough, oftentimes a year or two, they’ll go in and see a doctor and get tested, then they’ll do a semen analysis in the lab and they’ll take a look at the numbers and recommend a treatment,” Greg Sommer, founder and chief strategy officer, told MobiHealthNews. “But what we’re doing with Trak is kind of changing the way pre-conception is treated for men. … Sperm count is not a static health parameter at all. It’s something that goes up and down based on many factors. So this whole system has evolved into a toolset to help men realize on a personalized level what they can do to improve their sperm production.”

The system does that by pairing the testing kit with an app-based questionnaire that asks men a barrage of questions about their diet and lifestyle. As they take the test, their fertility score updates based on what’s known about how lifestyle factors effect sperm count and motility. And as they enter their test results, Trak collects more data to make future scores more accurate.

“It’s very much a learning tool for us, so we can see what the needs are of couples trying to conceive and work with them one-on-one to not only help them with their current fertility goals, but to make our product and our messaging all the better for helping people,” he said. “Infertility is such a devastating and difficult thing for customers to deal with, and we want to help them reach their goals and start their families.”