Massachusetts company MicroCHIPS has developed a remote-controlled chip that could serve as a contraceptive for 16 years.
The 20 x 20 x 7-millimeter chip works by being implanted into the skin. A daily dose of 30 milligrams of levonorgestrel, which is used in several hormonal and emergency contraceptives, is then administered through the body. A woman will be able to use a remote control to shut the chip off if she wants to conceive a child with her partner, and can then turn it back on when she sees fit.
The hormone is contained and protected in small reservoirs on a 15 centimeter-wide microchip inside the device. The reservoirs are covered with a hermetic titanium and platinum seal created by MicroCHIPS. An electric current from an internal battery travels through the seal and temporarily melts it, which allows for a small dose of the hormone to be released in the body 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,” said Robert Farra, president of MicroCHIPS.
The chip has the potential to be used for more than just contraceptives, since the reservoir can store any drug and release it on demand, or based on a schedule pre-programmed in the chip.
“These arrays are designed for compatibility with pre-programmed microprocessors, wireless telemetry, or sensor feedback loops to provide active control,” MicroCHIPS says on its webpage. “Individual device reservoirs can be opened on demand or on a predetermined schedule to precisely control drug release or sensor activation.”
The company has tested the chip in a human clinical trial, in which osteoporosis medication was delivered to a post-menopausal woman for a month. A local anesthetic was used to implant the chip in a procedure lasting 30 minutes. The device was shown to be a success, with no adverse immune reaction taking place. While the chip still needs to be encrypted to secure wireless data, the company was able to prove that the concept worked as planned.
MicroCHIPS, led by Robert Langer from MIT, aims to have the contraceptive chip approved by the FDA for clinical trials next year, as well as to make the device available to consumers by 2018.