Remote-controlled contraceptive implant development, backed by Bill Gates

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A company based in Massachusetts has developed a contraceptive computer chip which will be controlled remotely.

The chip will be implanted under the woman’s skin and release a small amount of the hormone levonorgestrel. This will occur every day for a period of 16 years, however, it can be stopped by making use of the wireless remote control.

Bill Gates has backed this project and it will be ready for pre-clinical testing in the US during 2015 and may be available for purchase by 2018.

Creators of the device have said that it will be competitively priced and measures 20mm x 20mm x 7mm.

Convenience

Small reservoirs of the hormone will be stored on a 1.5cm-wide microchip which is inside the device. A small electric charge causes an ultra-thin seal around the levonorgestrel to melt, which releases the 30 microgram dosage into the woman’s body.

There are currently other types of available contraceptive implants, but they all require a trip to a clinic, as well as an outpatient procedure to have the device deactivated.
Dr Robert Farra from MIT said that being able to turn the device on and off provides those planning a family with a certain level of convenience.

The next challenge the team has to face is to ensure total security of the device by preventing activation or deactivation by another person without the woman being aware of it.

Dr Farra stated that communication with the implant would have to be done at skin contact level. A person across the room will not be able to re-programme the implant. Along with this security factor, there will also be secure encryption. That will prevent someone from trying to intervene or interpret the communications.

Other Uses

It may be possible for this technology to be used to administer other medications.

The head of the surgical and interventional business at Cambridge Consultants, Simon Karger, said that this type of implant technology faces a range of risks and challenges. However, he said the overall value to patients of these types of implants can be massive. There is a future vision where a large range of conditions could be treated by using smart implant systems.

This new innovation comes after organisations and governments globally have agreed to offer family planning to about 120 million more females by 2020. This challenge has opened the door to using this type of implant technology in areas where access to traditional methods of contraception is limited. A biomedical engineer, Gavin Corley, states that this would be a humanitarian application of the device rather than to satisfy the needs of the first-world.

Image Credit: Studio Roosegaarde

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