Imagine you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or hypertension. You go to see your doctor who recommends that you have an implant. A small electronic device, introduced through standard keyhole surgery, will change the messages your nerves send around your body so you feel better. It sounds like something out of science fiction – but within 10 years it could be a reality, thanks to a new field known as bioelectronic medicine.
The idea of using electrical impulses to treat long-term conditions isn’t new. Pacemakers, which work by sending electrical impulses to the heart to correct an irregular heartbeat, have been in use for nearly 50 years. And doctors use electrical stimulation of the spinal cord – part of the central nervous system – to treat pain.
But what makes bioelectronics different is that it works by using the body’s peripheral nervous system – all the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. These nerves carry electrical signals between the brain and all the organs around the body that are central in chronic diseases.
In some cases, the implant may be able to completely restore the nervous system to a healthy state, in others, the implant may quietly and reliably continue doing its work over long periods of time. “They will be designed so that they can reliably operate for several years,” says Kris Famm, Galvani’s president.
For the 15 million people in England living with chronic conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, the introduction of bioelectronics could be transformative. Many chronically ill patients have to take daily medication for the rest of their lives – medication that manages the condition rather than cures it, and that can be accompanied by uncomfortable side effects.The need to remember to take medication daily (particularly if multiple tablets are involved) can be stressful, especially for older patients and those caring for them. A bioelectronic implant, inserted in a one-off operation, could remove that daily stress as well as eliminate the side-effects.
According to The Guardian