The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted former Dana grantee Kevin Tracey’s latest research. The July 8th article, “The Future of Bioelectronic Medicine,” detailed Tracey’s newly published study, which is the first in-human investigation of implanted electronic devices as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disorder that occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, causing chronic swelling, inflammation, and joint pain. The drugs currently used to manage the disease are not always effective, leaving many patients looking for other treatment options.
In the study, Tracey and his colleagues implanted electronic devices
in patients with treatment-resistant RA. These devices sent pulses of electricity to stimulate the vagus nerve, which in turn signaled the immune system to suppress specific molecules associated with RA inflammation. At the study’s conclusion, several patients reported significant symptom relief and pain reduction.
Tracey hopes similar devices will be used to treat other inflammatory disorders such as hypertension, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Crohn’s disease. Bioelectronic medicines could also provide safe and effective alternatives for those looking to avoid the side effects of costly drugs. Despite the anticipated challenges ahead, Tracey expects bioelectronic use will continue to evolve and join mainstream medicine within the next decade.
– Kenzie Novak