Heal thyself

Minimally invasive neuro-technologies


The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is pushing wearable technology into a new frontier: It’s announced the launch of a five-year, US$78.9 million research program “to develop new, minimally invasive neurotechnologies that will increase the ability of the body and brain to induce healing.”

Electrical Prescriptions, or ElectRx, as the program is known, could create new computer chips that help regulate the nervous systems of U.S. troops and veterans—minimizing the impacts of conditions including post-traumatic stress and arthritis.

“Instead of relying only on medication, we envision a closed-loop system that would work in concept like a tiny, intelligent pacemaker,” program manager Doug Weber, PhD, told The Washington Post. “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.”

Before the program can accomplish its big ambitions, though, it has to develop project deliverables capable of being itty-bitty: Most implantable devices in use today are about the size of a deck of cards and require surgical implantation. DARPA has tasked the program with developing “ultraminiaturized devices” that could be inserted through needle injection. —M. Wright




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