How do you fancy being a bionic woman (with a very low chance of accidental pregnancy)? That’s certainly one of my life goals, and it could soon become a reality thanks to a Massachusetts-based company called MicroCHIPS which has developed a contraceptive computer chip that is implanted in the skin and controlled via wireless remote.
The device measures 20mm x 20mm x 7mm and contains tiny amounts of levonorgestrel, a synthetic hormone that prevents pregnancy (more commonly found in the mini pill). It’s inserted under the skin of the upper arm, abdomen or um, bottom. Every day a small electric current is sent through the titanium and platinum seal, causing it to temporarily melt and release a 30 microgram dose of the hormone.
The implant lasts for 16 years but can stop releasing levonorgestrel at any time thanks to a wireless remote control – for example if you’re having hormonal side effects or want to start a family.The control only works within a close range so can’t be used by someone else and the chip is securely encrypted so it shouldn’t be hacked.
This is a huge step forward for contraception, given that current implants are more bulky, painful to insert and remove, and don’t involve remote controls. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is backing the project and it will be submitted for pre-clinical testing in the US next year, with the aim of having it on the market by 2018.
It could be especially beneficial in parts of the world where it has traditionally been difficult to access contraception. The technology could also be expanded to treatment for long-term conditions that require daily medication, especially for patients who forget to take tablets every day. Simon Karger, head of surgical and interventional business at Cambridge Consultants, told the BBC, ‘We foresee a future in which a huge range of conditions are treated through smart implanted systems.’
Of course, given that women’s primary concern about a male version of the pill is that men might forget to take it, this surely also opens the door to male contraceptive implantation, too. Right, guys? Guys?
Image via Kimmo Palosaari.