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Wireless-controlled contraception implant is coming, says MIT

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MIT's decade-plus pitch to embed microchip-based drug-dispensaries in humans has been re-framed as a microprocessor-based, wireless-controlled, fully Internet-of-Things-compliant, implantable contraceptive.

Since 1999, MIT's Robert Langer et al have been pitching the idea of using microchips to deliver medicines. The idea, way back then, was envisaged chips with reservoirs of drugs kept behind a gold membrane. Applying a voltage to the membrane would dissolve it to release the liquid.

Perhaps because healthcare is one of the world's most regulated research fields, it took from 1999 to 2006 for MicroCHIPS (the company set up to commercialise the technology and manage the patent portfolio) to get through its pre-clinical work, according to the Boston Business Journal.

That was followed up with its first clinical trial, which was completed in 2012, testing dispensing osteoarthritis medications.

Along the way, it seems, the original gold membrane has been replaced by a titanium-platinum seal that operates on the same principle.

MIT's house magazine says the idea of using it for chip-borne contraceptives was sparked by a visit by Bill Gates to Langer's laboratory. The complaint that they're trying to address is that "contraception is inconvenient and imperfect".

The company claims a contraceptive chip could hold enough drug to last 16 years. In-built wireless communications would let women turn off contraception at will.

The company hasn't yet filed an application with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to start tests. There's also no encryption for the chips' wireless communications.

And in spite of the device being widely welcomed as "imminent", MicroCHIPS's product pipeline doesn't even consider the contraceptive implant as in the preclinical stage yet. ®

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