Is bioelectronic medicine the treatment of the future?

Kevin Tracey, MD, president of the Feinstein Institution for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y., believes bioelectronic medicine could have widespread use within the next five to 10 years, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Bioelectronic medicine consists of inserting small implants under the skin that control the electrical signals sent out by the nervous system to dictate cell behavior.

In a recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Tracey inserted bioelectronics simulators into 17 patients with rheumatoid arthritis. The implant set off electrical pulses that stimulated the vagus nerve, telling the immune system to turn off a molecule that caused inflammation. After 84 days, 12 patients showed major improvement.

Eventually, Dr. Tracey hopes these devices can be used to stimulate other nerves to treat a variety of diseases including inflammatory bowel disease, hypertension, Crohn's disease, paralysis and possibly cancer.

Dr. Tracey said the devices would also limit the need for expensive medications.

"We live in a pharmacocentric culture today, where the world revolves around a drug for everything in a trillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry," he said. "But when I talk to patients…people don't want to take drugs."

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