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Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyProgram Information
Electrical Prescriptions (ElectRx)
Dr. Eric Van Gieson
The Electrical Prescriptions (ElectRx) program aims to support military operational readiness by reducing the time to treatment, logistical challenges, and potential off-target effects associated with traditional medical interventions for a wide range of physical and mental health conditions commonly faced by our warfighters. ElectRx seeks to deliver non-pharmacological treatments for pain, general inflammation, post-traumatic stress, severe anxiety, and trauma that employ precise, closed-loop, non-invasive modulation of the patient’s peripheral nervous system.
The human nervous system already plays a vital role in maintaining all aspects of physical and mental health. A sophisticated network of sensory nerves continuously monitors health status and triggers reflexive responses in the brain and spinal cord when an infection or injury is detected. These reflexes normally adjust organ function to initiate and control the healing process. However, some diseases can disrupt healthy functioning of these processes and produce nerve signaling that causes pain, metabolic disorders such as diabetes, and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. ElectRx technology would exploit and supplement the body’s natural ability to quickly and effectively heal itself, intervening when required to correct or bolster nervous system activity.
ElectRx is establishing the underlying science and developing the technologies that could enable artificial modulation of peripheral nerves to restore healthy patterns of signaling in these neural circuits. The program seeks to advance understanding of the anatomy and physiology of specific neural circuits and their role in health and disease. In parallel, the program also seeks to develop novel biological-interface technologies for monitoring biomarkers and peripheral nerve activity, and delivering therapeutic signals to peripheral nerve targets. Potential new approaches include in vivo, real-time biosensors and novel neural interfaces using optical, acoustic, electromagnetic, or engineered biology strategies to achieve precise targeting with potentially single-axon resolution.
Following successes in early proof-of-concept studies, the ElectRx devices and therapeutic systems under development are entering into clinical studies. If successful, such precise neuromodulation capability technology would reduce dependence on traditional drugs and create new treatments that could be automatically and continuously tuned to the needs of warfighters without side effects. The technology could also help doctors evaluate and predict various physiological states, and characterize host response in patients with severe infections, providing a quantitative framework to guide operations and therapy.
| Health | Injury | Med-Devices | Neuroscience | Restoration |
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— Read on www.darpa.mil/program/electrical-prescriptions