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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Electroceuticals and Optogenetics

Features Electroceuticals and Optogenetics
The use of electroceuticals on the ion channels to trigger nerve signalling, the true potential of which will be reached when the community takes advantage of these drugs to control bioelectric signalling in non-neural cells, for transformative applications in regenerative medicine, cancer, and synthetic bioengineering,
Then there are attempts to go beyond pacemakers and other stimulating devices to control the action potentials in individual neurons. We have known for some time that nerves fine-tune a heartbeat, the rate of breathing or lower blood pressure. In the spleen, they can alter the activity of T-cells – immune cells – to halt the production of inflammatory substances, such as the tumour necrosis factor that accumulates in joints in rheumatoid arthritis. And there are nerves in the skin that can suppress infection.
The newly-emerging field of electroceuticals aims to extend this understanding of the body’s electrical grid and the language of nerve impulses to treat autoimmune diseases, asthma, diabetes and gastric conditions. The simplest opportunities lie in the peripheral nervous system – outside of the spinal cord and the brain. One notable target is the vagus nerve, a nerve superhighway that snakes its way from the head through the abdomen to link the brain with major organs.