Reproductive health-focused epigenetics information company Episona has launched what the company says is the first direct-to-consumer, epigenetics test to evaluate male infertility. The test, called Seed, may now be requested online by consumers who can also receive complementary genetic counseling services from Gene Matters.
"Since Seed was launched a year ago, more than 40 fertility clinics nationwide have begun offering the test,” said Episona CEO Alan Horsager, Ph.D., in a press release. “Patient interest and demand for Seed has also increased substantially. Men contribute to about half the cases of infertility, but they rarely go in for doctor's appointments. We listened to the feedback from our patients, and it is now possible to order Seed online and take the test at home, all before you set foot in a doctor's office."
Consumers who request the test will receive a kit from Episona in 3 to 5 business days. Online requests for Seed will be evaluated by independent physicians, ensuring an experience that is easy, convenient and medically guided. Once patients receive the kit, the provide a semen sample and return to it Episona’s CLIA-certified lab for evaluation. Within three weeks the company says it will produceto a detailed, interactive, online report detailing the patient’s risk for male factor infertility. The results are sent to both the individual and the ordering physician.
The intent is for patients to use the results to make choices about receiving advanced fertility treatment, including in-vitro fertilization (IVD).
"Fertility treatment is expensive and emotionally draining, so I want my patients to have as much information as possible to make informed decisions about all of their options," said Dr. Paul Turek, medical director of The Turek Clinics and a scientific advisor to Episona. "As the only epigenetic test on the market for male factor infertility, Seed goes far beyond the traditional semen analysis to offer a depth of next-gen information about male fertility and embryo quality that to date has been unavailable."
Seed examines over 480,000 regions on sperm DNA for abnormal methylation at different gene sites important to fertility. A relative risk is then assigned to each abnormal location for either male factor infertility or poor embryo development. Seed results can help identify issues involving sperm function and embryo development, which are not detected with currently available tests. If a patient receives positive results for epigenetic abnormalities, complementary genetic counseling will be provided through Gene Matters.
"Epigenetics has the potential to revolutionize the way we see health and disease," said Jill Davies, co-founder and chief operating officer of Gene Matters. "Clinically, epigenetics is a novel and nuanced way of looking at the function of the DNA. Gene Matters' counselors have the expertise and experience to help patients understand how disruptions to their epigenome could impact their fertility."