Remote Controlled Contraceptive Implant Could Be Available In Just Four Years

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A new exciting development in the world of contraceptives has just been announced – a remote-controlled contraceptive computer chip has been developed by Massachusetts startup MicroCHIPS.

This chip, which can be implanted under a woman’s skin, will release small doses of the hormone levonorgestrel every day for 16 years. Sixteen years might seem like a long time, but the doses can actually be stopped at any time by using a wireless remote control.

How it works

The device measures 20mm x 20mm x 7mm and has a 1.5cm-wide microchip within the device that will store tiny reservoirs of the hormone. The hormone will be released in daily doses of 30 micrograms, set off by an electric charge that melts an ultra-thin seal around the levonorgestrel.

This chip is the first contraceptive implant that would not require a trip to a clinic or a procedure to be deactivated.

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Dr. Robert Farra of MIT says:

“The ability to turn the device on and off provides a certain convenience factor for those who are planning their family.” [source]

Dr. Farra reveals that the team is now taking on the challenge of finding a way to ensure the security of the device – making activation or deactivation by another person without the woman’s knowledge impossible.

“Communication with the implant has to occur at skin contact level distance. Someone across the room cannot re-program your implant. Then we have secure encryption. That prevents someone from trying to interpret or intervene between the communications.” [source]

Other applications

The technology behind this contraceptive chip might be a useful way to administer other drugs in the future.

Although head of the surgical and interventional business at Cambridge Consultants Simon Karger cautions that implanted technology has its own challenges and risks, he said:

“The value to the patient of these types of implant can be huge and we foresee a future in which a huge range of conditions are treated through smart implanted systems”. [source]

This advancement in contraceptives comes at a time when organizations and governments around the world are making an effort to give 120 million more women around the world access to family planning by 2020. Implant technology could be particularly useful in areas where access to traditional contraceptives is limited. Gavin Corley, a biomedical engineer, explained:

“That’s a humanitarian application as opposed to satisfying a first-world need.” [source]

The chip, which has been backed by Bill Gates, is to be submitted for U.S. pre-clinical testing in the next year. If approved, the chip could possibly go on sale by 2018. The chip’s creators say it will be “competitively priced.”

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