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Birth control goes high tech, fertility chip comes with remote control

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Women in ancient times are known to use acacia leaves, lint and honey to block sperm as a method of birth control but this rudimentary method of preventing pregnancy has gone a long way with the advent of new and more effective means of contraception available today including the use of pills, patches and intrauterine device (IUD).

Yet it appears that there are still more room for improvement when it comes to contraceptives. A startup based in Lexington, Massachusetts is developing a new method of birth control that is too futuristic when compared with using leaves, lint and honey. The company is developing a contraceptive implant that is made up of a fertility chip that can be controlled using a remote control.

MicroCHIPS, which specializes in long-term implantable drug delivery technology, has come up with a birth control chip that is implanted under the skin of the upper arm, abdomen or buttocks, and can be turned on and off using a wireless remote control.

"Microchips' technology is based on proprietary reservoir arrays that are used to store and protect potent drugs within the body for long periods of time," MicroCHIPs explained its technology on its website. "Individual device reservoirs can be opened on demand or on a predetermined schedule to precisely control drug release or sensor activation."

The device, which measures, 20 x 20 x 7 millimeters, dispenses 30 micrograms of the hormone levonorgestrel, which is also used in other contraceptive products, per day. The dosage, however, can be adjusted remotely by doctors.

Unlike with women using other birth control implants such as IUD who need to see their doctor to have the device removed when they feel ready to conceive, women with the implanted fertility chip could simply turn it off using the remote control should they feel ready to have a baby. They can turn it on again if they do not wish to get pregnant.

MicroCHIPS' fertility chip is also designed for long term use. While there are currently no hormonal birth control that lasts longer than five years, the device is designed to last up to 16 years after which it could be removed.

Although the high tech contraceptive device is still under development, it is being readied for preclinical testing next year with the objective of making it available for public use by 2018. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports the development of the device under its Family Planning program.

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