Remote-controlled birth control may be an option in the future if a Massachusetts startup gets approval for an implant that users can switch on or off using a wireless remote.
MicroCHIPS will begin preclinical testing next year of its product that would use implants in the buttocks, upper arm, or abdomen to deliver a birth control medication at will. The implants would last 16 years.
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MIT Technology Review described the way the device works:
“Sixteen years’ worth of the hormone fits in tiny reservoirs on a microchip 1.5 centimeters wide inside the device. MicroCHIPS invented a hermetic titanium and platinum seal on the reservoirs containing the levonorgestrel. 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,” MicroCHIPS President Robert Farra told MIT.
Dosages could be adjusted remotely, in addition to being turned completely on or off, MIT said.
The idea for such a device was born when Bill Gates and colleagues visited Robert Langer’s MIT lab. They asked Langer if it would be possible to create such a birth control device, and Langer took on the challenge, MIT said. He used a controlled release microchip technology he, along with Michael Cima and John Santini, invented in the 1990s.
Boston.com said the company would like to offer the remote-controlled birth control by 2018.
MicroCHIPS technology was tested in 2012 with a different medication, using it on post-menopausal women with osteoporosis.
"This trial demonstrates how [drugs] can be delivered through an implantable device that can be monitored and controlled remotely, providing new opportunities to improve treatment for patients and to realize the potential of telemedicine,” Langer said in a news release about the 2012 test.
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