Controlling nerves could treat diseases

Published 05.08.2016 01:25

Galvani Bioelectronics, a London-based joint venture by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Verily to develop implantable bioelectronic medicines, is working on a new project to control human nerve cells with electricity, enabling doctors to treat certain diseases like diabetes, asthma and arthritis.

During in vitro experiments, the research group attacked tiny silicone cuffs with electrodes and were able to control the nerve cells via the power supply. Researchers hope to use this method for treatment of Type 2-diabetes. In the experiment, nerve cells near the main artery are triggered to control the body's response to the presence of sugar in the bloodstream.

"The neurological signatures in the nerve-endings are higher in type 2-diabetes patients. By blocking those neurological signals in diabetic lab rats, you see the sensitivity of the body to insulin is restored," GSK's vice president of bioelectronics Kris Famm told BBC News. Famm also said, "In 10 to 20 years, I believe that there will be a set of these concentrated precision therapies that will be available for patients when they visit a doctor." Stressing that the study is in its earliest stages, Famm said the density and rhythm of nerve signals significantly vary in the human body and further research is needed for this study to be applied to humans. Galvani Bioelectronics should get a pharmaceutical patent for this new method of treatment in the next seven years.

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