The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research

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Bioelectronic Medicine

Nerves produce “drugs” – we can
tell nerves to produce the natural chemicals the body uses to cure itself

Bioelectronic medicine is a revolutionary new approach to treating a number of diseases. Rather than taking manufactured drugs, which expose the whole body to the medication, bioelectronic medicine uses a tiny device to stimulate a specific nerve, which then sends a signal to a specific tissue to make and release the natural chemical the body needs to treat the problem at the site of the problem. Bioelectronic medicine tells the body to treat itself without taking manufactured drugs and suffering from their side effects.

A large and wide-ranging number of diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, obesity, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and possibly even certain cancers, can potentially be treated by bioelectronic medicine. Most of these diseases are the result of the body’s immune system either underplaying, or Kevin-Tracey-NYT-b2overreacting to, a threat. With bioelectronic medicine, signals are sent and received in the body so that it knows to upregulate its response in immune deficiency, and downregulate its response in autoimmune disease. The research of Kevin J. Tracey, MD, is a leading example of deploying bioelectronic medicine to regulate the immune system. Dr. Tracey and his lab discovered that the vagus nerve is not only responsible for regulating the immune system, but also how it regulates it. A recent clinical trial based on this idea successfully targeted rheumatoid arthritis. The initial results are very promising – the first patient to receive the device had been crippled by rheumatoid arthritis for years. Eight weeks after implantation of the vagus nerve stimulator, he was out of bed, back to his job, and playing with his children.

Principal investigators conducting bioelectronic medicine research include Sangeeta ChavanPatricio T. Huerta; Jared M. HustonRaj NarayanValentin PavlovKevin J. Tracey and Bruce Volpe.