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Birth control chip implant you can turn on and off? It’s happening


A birth control chip being developed can be implanted in the skin, controlled wirelessly, turns on and off and it lasts for 16 years.

Everything has a wireless control nowadays — why should birth control be any different?

An IT startup dubbed MicroCHIPS is developing an implantable chip that women can operate wirelessly. You know, because your cycle deserves a high-tech lift.

The idea for the chip originated in the 1990s, when Robert S. Langer, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his colleagues came up with the concept of a chip that could release controlled amounts of chemicals. Two years ago, Langer’s lab got some support from the Microsoft guru Bill Gates, who was talking about a birth control method that could be turned on and off — and used for the long term.

And that’s how the device came to be. Measuring in at 20 by 20 by 7 millimeters, the device can be implanted under the skin of the buttocks, abdomen or upper arm. It contains small reservoirs of the common contraceptive hormone levonorgestrel. The levonorgestrel on the chip is released by passing an electric current from an internal battery through the hermetic titanium and platinum seal. That melts the seal temporarily, releasing the hormone. In fact, it releases 30 micrograms of the hormone a day… enough to last 16 years.

Time for baby? Just turn off the device. The implant would be able to stay in a woman’s body until the end of a 16-year span, which works nicely for women who want to close up the shop after they procreate. Currently, hormonal birth control implants last up to five years.

Robert Farra, president of MicroCHIPS, said that the “ability to turn the device on and off provides a certain convenience factor for those who are planning their family.”

As with all tech, there’s the fear of it being hacked. Farra put those worries aside, saying that the communication between the implant and the remote control has to occur at the skin, so “someone across the room cannot reprogram your implant.”

“Then we have secure encryption,” he added. “That prevents someone from trying to interpret or intervene between the communications.”

MicroCHIPS, which is backed by Bill Gates, will submit plans for pre-clinical testing in the U.S. next year, and is eyeing the device to go on the market by 2018.

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