Ingested or injected pharmaceuticals can target specific molecules involved in disease processes, but get distributed throughout the body where they can cause unwanted side effects. An approach known as electroceuticals aims to avoid systemic exposure by using small wires to electrically monitor and manipulate individual nerves that control organ function and carry information about disease. Despite the promise of electroceuticals, it has been challenging to develop long-term therapies due to the lack of biocompatible wires.

Now, NIBIB-funded researches have spun carbon nanotubes into flexible, nerve-sized wires or yarns capable of high-fidelity long-term connections in live animals. The development of these biocompatible yarns opens the possibility of new bioelectric diagnostics and therapies through regulation of internal organ function at the single nerve level.

All the organs of the body such as the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys are automatically controlled by nerves that stretch from the brainstem to each organ. These nerves control organ functions such as heartbeat, breathing rates, and blood pressure, making constant adjustments in response to environmental and physiological changes. Variations in the electrical activity in this area of the brain, known as the autonomic nervous system, can also be predictors, indicators or causes of disease development.

“Monitoring and manipulating the autonomic nervous system to both understand and potentially treat disease has been an intriguing yet understudied approach to medicine,” explains Michael Wolfson, Ph.D., director of the NIBIB program in Rehabilitation Engineering and Implantable Medical Devices. “This is largely due to technical limitations in being able to insert wires into nerves that can reliably and safely record electrical activity over long periods of time and under different physiological conditions.”

Read more at nanowerk.com

Image Credit:  © NPG

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