DARPA ElectRX plans to treat disease with magnets, sound, electricity, and lasers

Traditionally in medicine if you have a disease process or malady, your doctor gives you medications. Doctors of the future may have a new method of treating all sorts of conditions that doesn't require pharmaceuticals. DARPA has a new biomedical program that aims to treat people using electricity, magnets, sound waves, and lasers called ElectRX.

ElectRX would treat the body as an electrical system and treat conditions by altering electrical pulses that run through the nerves. DARPA has handed out the first seven grants for performing fundamental research.

Researchers who received the grants will investigate the mechanisms to use for nerve stimulation with the goal of treating conditions like chronic pain, PTS, and inflammatory bowel disease. Proposed methods of treatment include pulses of light, sound waves, and magnetic fields.

Three of the teams granted money under DARPA's plan would target the vagus nerve that affects many parts of the body. Circuit Therapeutics will perform light-based research and this team plans to investigate the use of pulses of light to alter neural circuits involved in neuropathic pain. Another team from MIT plans to investigate magnetic fields to activate neurons coated with a nanoparticle that is magnetic.

SOURCE: Spectrum