Innovations in science and technology have taken over the world, improving millions’ lives and underlining sustainable development. Modern approaches in healthcare are no exception to reducing mortality where intravenous injections and oral capsules are used to treat diseases. However, these solutions are painful and yield less patient compliance. To make treatments more convenient, a yet developing perspective on the horizon is implantable microchips, an idea known for many decades that has been used to identify domestic pets and aid daily human activities like confirming IDs or making payments(Žnidaršič et al., 2022).
Microchips operate on Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) technology(Tucker et al., 2019) which generates an output signal in response to an incoming message of appropriate frequency. In health care, RFID chips may be used to track hospital equipment or drugs in the supply chain (Smith, 2008), gain access to medical records, and be incorporated into the human body for drug delivery. In 1988, the first human RFID implantation was reported and the technology was approved for human use by FDA in 2004(Fram et al., 2020). Human microchip implants arethe size of a rice grain that works passively or on demand. They are mostly placed subcutaneously via an injection syringe(Fram et al., 2020). Microchips implanted for drug delivery are silicon-based having numerous reservoirs to carry the drug. The microchip is hermetically sealed using a metal membrane which is removed following an electric current delivered by the device (Eltorai et al., 2016), and this releases a single drug dose.
Scientists in 2012 brought this concept into limelight during their investigation where they used microchip devices to release parathyroid hormone in female patients with osteoporosis or osteopenia. The results indicated no adverse effects and the device administered doses comparable to injections (Forsteo) (Eltorai et al., 2016). Implantation is pain-free, convenient, and unnoticeable due to its minute size. The microchip is preprogrammed for the controlled release of drugs. This allows patients to better follow the prescription and reduce hospital visits. So far scientific studies have not reported the failure of RFID chip implantation in humans(Fram et al., 2020). Commercially available chips may vary in composition but are mostlycomposed of ferrite coil enclosed inbiocompatible glass either with or without apolymer coating to prevent chip migration. A concern is the development of tissue capsules around the microchip however, most data indicate little or no effect on pharmacokinetics and drug efficacy(Eltorai et al., 2016). Testing indicates normal working of RFID chips during MRI (Fram et al., 2020).
At the moment in Pakistan, this technology is widely used for animal identification and also to monitor the population of critically endangered species, an initiative by WWF-Pakistan.Gyps vultures populations have been declining in Pakistan since 2001. To restore their population Pakistan carried out a WWF Gyps vulture restoration project where birds had identification rings and microchip implants. Future expansion of facilities in coming years will help regain endangered birds.
Microchip implantation in humans has less acceptance and hesitancy is found among the individuals of Pakistan. This was evident during COVID-19 when people started to believe certain myths regarding the vaccination that it has microchip implants and we might be getting controlled.
Microchip implants have the potential to transform the healthcare system in future. To date, in humans, they have been studied for treatment of a few diseases likeosteoporosis, diabetes,multiple sclerosis,and cancer. Pakistan is among the countries where these diseases are highly prevalent and so microchip implants can be effective.Microchips may be costly for general publichowever, if they are manufactured withinthe country, they can be cost-effective and find huge market in Pakistan. Most tech-literate countries like U.S. and Sweden highly approve of microchip implants to ease daily lives.
• Eltorai, A. E., Fox, H., McGurrin, E., & Guang, S. (2016). Microchips in medicine: current and future applications. BioMed research international, 2016.
• Fram, B. R., Rivlin, M., & Beredjiklian, P. K. (2020). On emerging technology: What to know when your patient has a microchip in his hand. The Journal of Hand Surgery, 45(7), 645-649.
• Smith, C. (2008). Human microchip implantation. Journal of technology management & innovation, 3(3), 151-160.
• Tucker, Z., & Boonthum-Denecke, C. (2019, May). Security, privacy, and ethical concerns on human radio-frequency identification (RFID) implants: poster. In Proceedings of the 12th Conference on Security and Privacy in Wireless and Mobile Networks (pp. 322-323).
• Yaseen, M. O., Saif, A., Khan, T. M., Yaseen, M., Saif, A., Bukhsh, A., … & Jaber, A. A. (2022). A qualitative insight into the perceptions and COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among Pakistani pharmacists. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, 18(1), 2031455.
• Žnidaršič, A., Baggia, A., & Werber, B. (2022). The profile of future consumer with microchip implant: Habits and characteristics. International Journal of Consumer Studies, 46(4), 1488-1501.