Remote-controlled contraceptive implant could launch by 2018 (Wired UK)

Hopefully the remote will not look quite this complex
Hopefully the remote will not look quite this complexShutterstock

A remote-controlled, wireless
contraceptive implant that works for 16 years could hit the shelves
in 2018.

The revolutionary device stems from Massachusetts
company¬†MicroCHIPS’ ongoing work into drug delivery devices.
Back in
it revealed that the first clinical trails of such a
system had been success, with a paper in Science Translational
that revealed the microchip implant — which was
fitted with biosensors — was a great candidate for “multi-year
drug delivery”. The volunteers in that trial were all women that
needed an osteoporosis drug injected daily and it took less than 30
minutes for it to be implanted under local anaesthetic.  

Cue a lab visit from Bill Gates, and the company has since
turned its attention to birth control, one of the key public health issues the philanthropist’s Foundation
focuses on. MIT Technology Review reports how Gates and his
colleagues visited the lab of Robert Langer, who had codeveloped
the tech behind MicroCHIPS’ devices in the 90s and licensed it out
to them. When the subject of long-term contraceptives came up,
Langer apparently thought of MicroCHIPS.

Fast-forward two years, and the company is now announcing it
could be available by 2018, if clinical trials launching next year
in the US are a success. If it is successful, it could be the
greatest contribution to the field since Carl Djerassi invented the pill.

The chip itself is just 2 x 2 x 0.7 cm and can be inserted just
under the skin of the buttocks, upper arm or abdomen, where it will
administer the hormone levonorgestrel daily. The rather epic feat
this chip achieves is in storing enough of the hormone to offer
women protection for 16 years — with no upkeep, potentially. The
electronics are safely encased and a current runs through the area
where the hormone is kept to melt the seal for just long enough for
30 migrogram dose to escape.

Implants that work in a similar way already can last around
three years and are around 99 percent effective. One particularly
big difference, though, is that this new model can be totally
remote controlled — it can be switched on and off to allow the
woman more control over her fertility without uncomfortable

Robert Farra, the companies president, told the
the company uses secure encryption to prevent other people
from hacking the device. “Communication with the implant has to
occur at skin contact level distance,” he said.

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