CAMBRIDGE, MA – Reports from CDC show approximately 117 million adults in the United States suffer from one or more chronic health conditions - including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, or cancer. Medication can address some of these diseases, but may not eliminate the severe impairment to daily activities that many sufferers face. While implanted nerve stimulation devices today offer relief, they require invasive surgery and stimulate the whole nerve, which can induce side effects.
To eliminate the need for surgery and offer precision micro-stimulation therapy, Draper Laboratory received $200,000 in Phase 1 funding from GlaxoSmithKline as part of its Innovation Challenge to continue development of a smaller, smarter device to treat these conditions.
“Such precision therapies may one day enable us to modulate one specific end-organ function without affecting others. For example, we may be able to modulate only blood pressure without affecting heart rate or kidney function,“ said Anil Achyuta, Draper’s program manager.
The Phase 1 technical challenge involves developing smart electronics that can wirelessly process the information collected by these miniaturized electrodes and hermetically sealing the entire device within a capsule to protect the electronics from moisture in the tissue. The ultimate goal of such a miniaturized device is to be inserted through a catheter or even an injection in an outpatient procedure.
This effort builds on Draper’s previous work for GSK’s Bioelectronics R&D group that developed miniaturized nerve interfaces that can read and write electrical signals from nerves the size of human hair (~100 microns in diameter). These interfaces can record the communication between individual populations of nerve fibers within the whole nerve bundle and deliver precision therapy when these electrical signals operate abnormally.
“Imagine a day within the next five to 10 years where physicians could order an electrical prescription with a specific type of device that has different processing powers and stimulation characteristics to treat chronic debilitating disorders,” Achyuta said.