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With the political scene being what it is, birth control is a hot topic these days. There is a push to produce safe, effective, non-controversial contraceptive options that are affordable and readily available. Oh, bonus points if it requires little room for human error (like forgetting to take that little pill each morning), and uber-bonus points if it is technology from the future including implantable microchips activated by remote control.
Remote control birth control?
You read that last part right. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Professor Robert Langer has been tasked by Bill Gates' family planning program to develop implantable microchip technology to function as birth control. The programmable drug delivery chip being developed was created by start-up company MicroCHIPS. The chip has already been tested in humans, used successfully to dispense osteoporosis medication for four months. The goal is to have it function as contraception for 16 years per implantation.
It is 20 millimeters square and about 7 millimeters thick, and would be implanted in the woman's buttocks, upper arm or abdomen. Prior to implantation microreservoirs would be filled with levonorgestrel, a hormone already in use as a contraceptive here in the U.S. The tiny reservoirs are then sealed with a titanium and platinum membrane. Each day, an electric charge would melt a portion of the seal, allowing a specific amount of the drug to diffuse out into the body. This is similar to how other slow-release contraceptive devices such as implants, patches and shots currently work. It would be implanted using local anesthetic, and the implantation procedure would take less than 30 minutes.
You could schedule the electrical charges in advance, so there would be no need to remember to activate the device daily. If you decided at some point that you wished to conceive you would simply click the implant's remote control to turn it off. If you change your mind and decide you want to prevent pregnancy again, just another click of the remote and the device is back in action.
There are still a few bugs to work out with the microchips, the biggest being how to encrypt the chips to keep the wireless data contained within secure. But the concept of the chip has been proven functional, with the main hurdle being the human trial period and FDA approval. MicroCHIPS hopes to have it through all testing and ready for the market by 2018. They expect it to be "competitively priced."
Sixteen years of relatively fool-proof contraception, all with the click of a button.