CAMBRIDGE (CBS) - Local researchers are at the forefront of what could be a birth control revolution. They are working on a microchip that could control a woman's hormones, and prevent pregnancy for up to 16 years.
Implanted under the skin and accessible by remote control, the chip can deliver tiny amounts of hormone, similar to a birth control pill.
"I think this kind of technology could have a major effect and revolutionize various aspects of medicine, including birth control," said Dr. Bob Langer from M.I.T.
Langer is working with bio-tech firm MicroCHIPS of Lexington; they first tested the technology in 2012 in osteoporosis patients. It was a success. That's when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stepped in with a multi-million dollar grant to investigate whether the chip could be used to prevent pregnancy.
Some experts point out that women already have Implantable birth control options like the IUD, but many still choose the pill.
"If women in the U.S. are not using the long-acting methods now, why are they going to be more likely to use this one?" questioned Dr. Lisa Perriera of University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland.
Bob Farra says, unlike the IUD, the chip doesn't need to be removed every time a woman is ready to have a child. When a woman wants to conceive, she or her doctor can turn off the device with a remote control. Researchers are now concentrating on that remote, to make sure it can't be hacked.
"The remote control must be put up against the skin in order to establish communication," explained Bob Farra, President and COO of MicroCHIPS. "The reason we do that is we want people to have close range communication to prevent anyone from listening in to the encrypted signal."
The plan is to have the device ready for testing on women in 2016. The estimated price tag will end up being around $1,000.
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