US defense R&D body DARPA is developing implantable biosensors which would encourage the body to maintain itself.
DARPA’s ElectRx program aims to use neuromodulation of organ functions to help the human body heal itself.
Neuromodulation refers to the body’s peripheral nervous system’s actions of constantly monitoring the status of internal organs to regulate biological responses to infection, injury or other imbalances.
This regulatory process can sometimes be affected by injury or illness, causing the peripheral nerve signals to exacerbate a condition, causing pain, inflammation or immune dysfunction.
The ElectRx program aims to control the regulatory process, and could fundamentally change the manner in which doctors diagnose, monitor and treat injury and illness.
This system would use tiny, intelligent implants to continually assess conditions, modulate nerve circuits and provide stimulus patterns tailored to help maintain healthy organ function, helping patients get healthy and stay healthy using their body’s own systems.
DARPA also hopes that by developing ElectRx technologies, it can boost scientific research aimed at achieving a more complete understanding of the structure and function of specific neural circuits and their role in health and disease.
The ElectRx program will require new technologies for in vivo sensing and neural stimulation, including advanced biosensors and novel optical, acoustic and electromagnetic devices to achieve precise targeting of individual or small bundles of nerve fibres that control relevant organ functions.
DARPA hopes to create minimally-invasive, ultra-miniaturised devices that can precisely target the relevant areas of the body. Ideally, these devices would be injectable through a needle.