Researchers Use Electric Stimulation For Inflammatory Diseases

Atlanta, GA — Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a procedure to help fight serious chronic inflammatory diseases. The device, similar in function to a pacemaker, electrically stimulates the vagus nerve while also inhibiting unwanted nerve activity in a targeted manner.

Forms of vagus nerve stimulation treatment have already been successfully tested in humans, but Georgia Tech’s introduction of the inhibiting signal could increase the clinical efficacy and therapeutic benefit of existing treatments.

“We use an electrode with a kilohertz frequency that blocks unwanted nerve conduction in addition to the electrode that stimulates nerve activity,” said principal investigator Robert Butera, a professor jointly appointed in Georgia Tech’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering. “We’ve arranged the two near each other so the blocking electrode forces the stimulation from the stimulating electrode to only go in one direction.”

This innovation could theoretically be implemented relatively quickly by augmenting existing clinical devices. So far, tests in rats have shown encouraging results, and have been achieved without taking more drastic measures notable in other experiments to optimize this kind of treatment, such as a vagotomy.

“We call it a virtual vagotomy,” Butera said.

Lead reasearcher Yogi Patel, a graduate student, along with Butera and former Georgia Tech researchers Tarun Saxena and Ravi V. Bellamkonda published the results of their research in the January Issue of Scientific Reports. Link

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