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ElectRx InfographicDefense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Electrical Prescriptions (ElectRx) seeks to advance understanding of the anatomy and physiology of specific neural circuits and their role in health and disease. Fundamental biology efforts will set out to culminate in proof-of-concept demonstrations of feedback-controlled neuromodulation strategies to establish healthy physiological states.

DARPA is devising a “quick reaction force” for the human body, able to detect unhealthy effects and to trigger change reactions to help restore the body to health, and to maintain health in opposition to adverse body states.

The peripheral nervous system is the body’s information superhighway, communicating a vast array of sensory and motor signals that monitor our health status and effect changes in brain and organ functions to keep us healthy,“ said Doug Weber, the ElectRx program manager and a biomedical engineer who previously worked as a researcher for the Department of Veterans Affairs. “We envision technology that can detect the onset of disease and react automatically to restore health by stimulating peripheral nerves to modulate functions in the brain, spinal cord and internal organs.

Several teams of scientists and engineers in the US and Australia will map out mechanisms of inflammation, immunity, gene expression, nerve malfunction etc. which contribute to disease onset and symptoms, and devise methods of electromagnetic stimulation to counter these ill effects via the peripheral nervous system.

Most of the recent research into the healing effects of electromagnetism has focused on the central nervous system. By utilizing the peripheral nervous system, scientists, bioengineers, and clinicians can actually access both central and peripheral systems — using the peripheral system as a gateway to the spinal cord and brain.

Using the peripheral nervous system as a medium for delivering therapy is largely new territory and it’s rich with potential to manage many of the conditions that impact the readiness of our military and, more generally, the health of the nation,” Weber said. “It will be an exciting path forward.

In parallel, ElectRx will seek to develop disruptive biological-interface technologies required to monitor biomarkers and peripheral nerve activity, as well as deliver therapeutic signals to peripheral nerve targets. Technology development will focus on chronic demonstrations of efficacy in biosensing or neuromodulation. Potential new approaches include in vivo, real-time biosensors and novel neural interfaces using optical, acoustic, electromagnetic, or engineered biology strategies to achieve precise targeting with potentially single-axon resolution.

These approaches to maintaining and achieving health are intriguing, and worth following. From the earliest moments of embryonic existence, human development is guided and affected by subtle electromagnetic fields. Science and bioengineering have barely begun to understand how electromagnetics and optoelectronics can aid in healing, recovery, rehabilitation, and achieving “extra-optimal” fitness of mind and body.

An early commercial approach to accessing the CNS via the peripheral vagus nerve

CNS-immune systemSchematic representation of the CNS-immune system crosstalk. There are bi-directional circuits linking CNS and immune system. The CNS can communicate with the immune system to modulate its activity, through different ways: through the autonomic nervous system (via the sympathetic and vagus nerve innervation, see the text for deeper details), the catecholaminergic pathway, or the neuropeptides and hormones release. In this context, leptin modulates immune system, by increasing the activation of T cells and decreasing Treg cells functions, thus representing a key player in the susceptibility to immune-mediated disorders.

Interesting work on bioelectricity by Robert Becker MD including a link to a full PDF download of his classic work “The Body Electric,” and much more.

Body electric

Quick and interesting Discover article on a few bioelectric apps

heart-powered battery– This heart-powered battery harnesses electrical currents from an animal’s heartbeats. The Piezoelectric nanoribbons, which attach to the outside of the heart muscle, much like a Band-Aid.

These tiny strips contain crystals that create an electric current when flexed — each time the heart expands and contracts. In animal tests, electrical output reached 0.2 microwatts per square centimeter, potentially strong enough to power self-contained pacemakers and make battery-replacement surgeries a thing of the past.

From the beating of our hearts to the chemistry of our brains, scientists are taking advantage of our bodies’ natural energy sources.

Researchers have long sought to harvest renewable energy from the world around us. Now, scientists are turning inward.

The beating of our hearts, the rush of our blood and the myriad chemical reactions that keep us alive are all potential energy sources. Experts are working to develop technologies that take advantage of the powerful biological ecosystems we already carry around with us.

42 pp 2009 PDF on potential of bioelectronics from US NIST (National Institutes of Standards and Technology)

Bioelectronics Framework US NIST

   – Bioelectronics Framework US NIST




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