Last week’s Partners Health Care World Medical Innovation Forum (WMIF) brought together scientists and healthcare professionals from some of the country’s top hospitals and healthcare companies. The event highlighted disruptive technologies for various neurologic and psychiatric disorders including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, schizophrenia, autism, stroke and sleep disorders.
From April 27-29, 2015, we spent time listening to inspired ideas for innovating in neuroscience. Here are five ideas that could have the potential to change healthcare as we know it:
Small implantable electronic devices, or “electroceuticals,” hold tremendous promise for treating disorders ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to obesity. Nerves communicate with organs using electrical signals, and electroceuticals are designed to mimic those signals when the communication goes awry.
“Imagine a grain of rice-sized device that will attach onto a nerve that contacts the spleen or the lung, and then detects a pattern” said Dr. Kristoffer Famm, head of Bioelectrics at GlaxoSmithKline. That device will then be able to determine when a pattern becomes pathological and intervene to reestablish the proper pattern of neuronal firing.
One of the key advantages of electroceuticals over traditional drugs is specificity. While taking an oral medication will expose the whole body to a given chemical and has the potential to cause various side effects, electroceuticals are not subject to these issues.
“Bioelectronic medicines can be extremely specific,” said Famm. “You have the power of spatial and temporal precision.” These devices only stimulate adjacent neurons, and as a result, Famm considers electroceuticals “a different axis of intervention.”
Lea is a PhD student at MIT studying molecular and cellular neuroscience. She is interested in translational disease research and is currently examining the role of neuronal identity in Huntington's Disease. Lea graduated from Harvard with an AB in neurobiology and has interned with biotech startups in neuropharmacology and biomedical engineering.
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