25 July 2017 - 10:57
The brain will be the focus of future medicine with the electronic medication
We are just at the beginning but the future is already promising to retire traditional pills and tablets. Tomorrow's drugs could have the appearance of an almost invisible device. It's called bioelectronics and it is a highly advanced and groundbreaking field of science currently being developed by a growing number of medical research labs and IT giants from around the world. The method is, in appearance, simple: we do not introduce chemicals or natural substances in our body to treat a disorder but we apply electrical stimulation to that part of the nervous system responsible for the problem.
All this could invoke the horrors of a therapy of the past, electroshock. Actually, the so-called electronic drugs do not have cables and belts but offer the opportunity to cure a disease by acting directly on the nervous system, via the adjustment of brain circuitry. This new medical technology is now being tested on common illnesses such as diabetes, infertility and asthma.
“Europe, in terms of organic bioelectronics applications, boasts a global leadership because most of the major research groups that have focused on this revolutionary discipline are active in the EU area” explains CORDIS, the Community Research and Development Information Service. Experimentations on bioelectronics see the participation of multidisciplinary teams of engineers, biologists, physicians, chemists and field experts from all European universities.
OrgBIO, for example, is one of the major projects funded by the EU in this new area of medical research and it is coordinated by the École Nationale Supérieure des Mines, but other universities from 7 European countries are also contributing to the effort. The promise of bioelectronics depends, in part, on the properties of conducting polymers: capsules that are invisible to the naked eye but that are made up of a special material that can be engineered to store and release a dose of electrical current sufficient to activate that part of the brain responsible for the disorder.
An interesting application of bioelectronics concerns the investigation of possible treatments of sight degeneration; these studies are currently under development at the Center for Nanoscience and Technology at the Milan Polytechnic. The prototype of this electronic medication is a kind of prosthesis that can be implanted in the human body for the treatment of certain disorders of the sight. The prosthesis is similar to a film that allows the translation of visual information carried by the light into specific patterns of electrical activity in the brain. The nervous system, in this case, replaces the eye as it is able, thanks to the electronic medication, to process the images even when an invalidating sight disorder is present.