As far as contraception innovation goes, for the past several years, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been leading the pack. Next on the list? Revolutionising actual bodily implants. Say hello to wireless birth control.
Of course, implantable birth control itself isn’t anything new, but most current models are only good for about three years. Plus, if you decide it’s time for a baby, the whole thing has to come out altogether. The new device, though, which is currently being developed by Gates Foundation-backed MicroCHIPS, would be able to stay in place for up to 16 years. And when babymaking time comes around, all you have to do is flip a switch.
Similar to current IUDs, the chip would provide 30 micrograms of the pregnancy-blocking hormone levonorgestrel daily. When its time for the hormone to be delivered, an internal battery sends an electric current through the device, temporarily melting the reservoir’s hermetic, titanium and platinum seal and doling out just the right dose on the daily for 16 years. And apparently, the idea came from none other than Bill Gates himself. According to MIT Tech Review:
The idea for the device originated two years ago in a visit by Bill Gates and his colleagues to Robert Langer’s MIT lab. Gates and his colleagues asked Langer if it were feasible to create birth control that a woman could turn on and off and use for many years. Langer thought the controlled release microchip technology he invented with colleagues Michael Cima and John Santini in the 1990s and licensed to MicroCHIPS might offer a solution.
The device is currently in the experimentation stage, but there’s still one major kink to work out: Hacking. The team needs to figure out how to effectively encrypt the microchip to stop hackers from turning the baby switch on and off at whim. So we likely won’t be seeing human trials until that happens. But scientists are hopeful that by 2018, we could very well be making babies with the touch of a button. [MIT Tech Review via The Week]