We have a new player in the never-ending hunt for the perfect contraceptive. Lexington, Massachusetts-based MicroCHIPS developed a wireless implant that can be turned on and off with a remote control (or a smartphone) and that is designed to last up to 16 years.
Presuming it passes safety and efficacy tests, the device could be more convenient for many women, allowing them to deactivate it without a trip to the clinic and an outpatient procedure. What’s more, it would last nearly half their reproductive life.
This [smart] device could be more convenient for many women, allowing them to deactivate it without a trip to the clinic and an outpatient procedure. What’s more, it would last nearly half their reproductive life.Measuring 20 x 20 x 7 millimeters, the device is designed to be implanted under the skin of the buttocks, upper arm or abdomen. It dispenses 30 micrograms a day of levonorgestrel, a hormone already used in several kinds of contraceptives. MicroCHIPS invented a hermetic titanium and platinum seal on the reservoirs containing the said hormone, and by passing an electric current through the seal from an internal battery melts it temporarily, allowing a small dose of the hormone to diffuse out each day.
“The idea of using a thin membrane like an electric fuse was the most challenging and the most creative problem we had to solve,” said MicroCHIPS president Robert Farra.
The original idea for the device originated two years ago in a visit by Bill Gates and his colleagues to Robert Langer’s MIT lab. At that time, Gates and his colleagues asked Langer if it were feasible to create birth control that a woman could turn on and off, and use for many years. Langer thought the controlled release microchip technology he invented with colleagues Michael Cima and John Santini in the 1990s, and licensed to MicroCHIPS might offer a solution.
Alas, more work lies ahead before MicroCHIPS files an application with the FDA. For instance, it will be necessary to encrypt the chips to keep their wireless data flow private and secure.