ElectRx could change the face of healthcare with the possibility of new and more advanced treatments.
DARPA has launched a new electrical prescriptions program called ElectRx (pronounced 'electrics') that hopes to modulate nerve circuits to maintain and restore human health. As part of the President's brain initiative, the program will be developing high-precision yet minimally invasive technologies.
“The technology DARPA plans to develop through the ElectRx program could fundamentally change the manner in which doctors diagnose, monitor and treat injury and illness,” said Doug Weber, DARPA program manager. “Instead of relying only on medication, we envision a closed-loop system that would work in concept like a tiny, intelligent pacemaker. It would continually assess conditions and provide stimulus patterns tailored to help maintain healthy organ function, helping patients get healthy and stay healthy using their body’s own systems.”
Kurzweil AI reports that the technologies being developed are expected to speed up research that would give scientists a more complete understanding of neural circuits and how they work with health and different diseases.
More recently, they have identified circuits involved in regulating the immune system. This could lead to better treatments for inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic inflammatory response syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.
ElectRx is also working on ways to improve peripheral nerve simulation treatments for mental and brain health disorders, including epilepsy, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
While implantable devices for the management of certain diseases and disorders do exist, ElectRx is looking to develop nano-sized devices, which would be about the size of individual nerve fibers. This would help to minimize insertion sizes during procedures, and possibly even reducing surgeries altogether through injectable implants.
DARPA will be releasing a Broad Agency Announcement in the next few months to outline the technical details of ElectRx.