What You Need to Know about the Future (Part X)
You’ve definitely missed the chance to be born in the future, but the characters of Travelers haven’t yet. In the popular Netflix series, the team of time-traveling heroes uses its nanotechnology from the future on a fellow member to repair and heal him from a serious injury. As advanced as these fictionalized “nanites” might seem to the Netflix audience, electroceuticals are the newest medical advances being used today.
From ingestible consumable microbots, capable of repairing injuries from within, to nanotechnology capable of stimulating healthy organ function, some of the world’s major governments and pharmaceutical giants are investing heavily in electroceuticals’ potential. Nanoelectrical technologies and medicine will be the odd couple of the future, though, merging together to potentially eliminate the need to take medicine and undergo painful treatments for millions of patients. They’ll play a major role in humans–like the ones born tomorrow–live well past the century mark, and in good health.
GlaxoSmithKline’s Big Bet on Electroceuticals (ProHealth)
With the prospect of dwindling profits from their current spate of drugs, GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) head of research knew that the British drugmaker needed to create a “new pillar of medicine.” GSK has been involved in the traditional medicine marketplace, where pills and biological therapies are created from living cells. An unexplored area for them, though, is utilizing electrical devices to mitigate a patient’s symptoms. The technology has gotten small enough, and the business terrain fertile enough, that challenging their researchers to push the limits of the next medical frontier is a bold but strategic move. As GSK scientists better comprehend how to cure our illnesses through designed implements, society won’t have to worry about adaptive viruses becoming immune to the next slew of biologically generated pills.
When a fibromyalgia diagnosis is handed down to a patient, there might seem like there’s light at the end of the tunnel since there are not many truly successful treatment plans. A lot of them entail managing the pain as best as possible. That’s why the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Common Fund is investing “government venture capital” into high-risk, innovative endeavors exploring new disease treatments. One is their SPARC (Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions) program, focused on tweaking the nerves in our bodies. The thought is that these electrical circuits control how our bodies feel pain, reduce inflammation, and heal heart problems, among others.
Hacking the Nervous System: Are Electroceuticals the Future? (Longevity Reporter)
In a world where electronic devices have shrunk and processing power has sped up, bioelectronics stands as a testament to the “hacking culture” of Silicon Valley. As an example, some of these “biohacking” solutions that fuse human biology with computers have worked with stopping the production of inflammatory molecules in the spleen. With extreme precision and targeting, electroceuticals stand to relieve, repair, or better regulate conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, blood pressure, hearing loss, and heart damage.
Electroceuticals (Scientific American)
Researchers were able to stop inflamed molecule production in the spleen when they stimulated the vagus nerve in the neck. The company who’s succeeded the most at vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) has been SetPoint Medical. Beyond simple research, SetPoint’s devices are currently being used in the field to treat epilepsy and depression. Despite the fact that those are implants, there exist others that are less invasive that will rest on top of the skin. As anyone in business knows, the fewer barriers for your potential customers, the easier it is to get them to buy it. As much as doctors don’t want to treat their patients like customers, we can only assume a lot of the same basic principles apply.
Electroceuticals: The Shocking Future of Brain Zapping (Vice Motherboard)
Finally, Vice has a fascinating article on electroceuticals and brain mapping. Where the above articles have detailed pharmacological alternatives, here they discuss the psychological aspect to electroceuticals, ranging from improving depression to curtailing addiction to increasing cognitive processes. Electroconvulsive therapy has been around for almost 100 years, but that’s a huge invasive sledgehammer compared to the more precise, less invasive transcranial direct current stimulation. Given how much psychopharmacological R&D costs (without a certainty of marketplace success) for new drugs, a new electroceutical device can serve as a cheaper, more reliable revenue stream for solving patients’ cognitive ailments.