July 8, 2014
Implantable Remote Control Contraceptive Could Last 16 Years
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
A Massachusetts-based start-up has developed a new implantable contraceptive that can be operated by remote control and can be used for up to 16 years, various media outlets reported on Monday.The contraceptive in question is a computer chip that was built by MicroCHIPS with financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Family Planning program. The chip is implanted under a woman’s skin, and according to BBC News technology reporter Dave Lee, it releases a small dose of the hormone levonorgestrel on a daily basis unless directed to stop using a wireless control device.
The project, which will be submitted to pre-clinical testing in the US next year, is 20mm x 20mm x 7mm in size and includes a microchip in which levonorgestrel will be stored. A small electrical charge will melt a thin seal surrounding the hormone, releasing a 30 microgram dose into the body, Lee added. The contraceptive device could potentially be available for purchase by 2018, and the creators promise that it will be “competitively priced.”
The fact that it could be used every day for more than a decade and a half makes it far longer-lasting than any intrauterine device (IUD) device currently available, according to Keith Wagstaff of NBC News. In comparison, Copper IUDs can last for up to 10 years, while hormonal ones last roughly half that time.
“The chip even comes with a remote control, which lets women turn it off and on again with the press of a button,” Wagstaff added. “It’s not quite ready for the widespread human use yet; researchers are still working out how to encrypt the chips, important in preventing hackers from seriously upsetting someone’s life plans.”
The fact that the unit can be deactivated without needing to visit a clinic or undergoing an outpatient procedure makes it far more convenient for most women, The Health Site’s editorial staff explained. The device uses a hermetic titanium and platinum seal on the hormone reservoirs, they noted. That barrier is temporarily melted by passing an electric current originating from an internal battery, and the remote control also allows doctors to change doses remotely.
Dr. Robert Farra of MIT told BBC News that the device is also being specially designed to prevent it from being hacked or switched on or off by another person: “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.”
The technology could also be adapted to administer other medications as well, according to Lee and Wagstaff. Simon Karger, head of the surgical and interventional business at Cambridge Consultants, told the British news agency that the overall 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.”