In the not-too-distant future, an implanted microchip could be the best form of birth control. Backed by the Bill & Miranda Gates Foundation Family Planning program, MicroCHIPS is starting pre-clinical testing of a new wireless device that delivers 30 micrograms of levonorgestrel — a synthetic hormone used in many contraceptives — every day for up to 16 years. That is far longer than any intrauterine device (IUD) on the market. (Copper IUDs can last for 10 years, while hormonal ones last for about five years). The chip even comes with a remote control, which lets women turn it off and on again with the press of a button. It’s not quite ready for the widespread human use yet; researchers are still working out how to encrypt the chips, important in preventing hackers from seriously upsetting someone’s life plans. If all goes according to plan, the company hopes the device will become available by 2018, and the technology could be adapted to deliver a number of other drugs as well.
- Keith Wagstaff