Electroceuticals are therapies using electrical impulses to alter nervous system signals to relieve a variety of conditions. Although the field of electroceuticals and its applications have gathered considerable recent momentum people have actually been treated using electrical impulses for many years, albeit crudely.
In fact electricity, mainly from electric fish, has been used for thousands of years to treat pain and a myriad of other conditions. After it became possible to both store and control electricity in the mid eighteenth century the use of electricity became much more popular, both as quackery as well as for more valid applications such as numbing pain during dental operations.
In 1933 Dr Albert Hyman heart specialist at the Beth Davis Hospital of New York City and C. Henry Hyman, an electrical engineer, sought an alternative to injecting drugs directly into the heart. They developed a device called the Hyman Otor which eventually paved the way for modern day defibrillators. The first implantable pacemaker was inserted in 1958.
Other examples include deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease and tremor, Cochlear implants for hearing and implanted devices for vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) to manage partial onset epilepsy and medication resistant depression. To date all of these procedures have involved surgery and the implantation of a medical device.
electroCore’s breakthrough achievement has been to develop a range of non invasive (i.e. non-surgical) therapies that deliver proprietary electrical signals to the vagus nerve. These signals, in turn, activate specific fibers in the vagus nerve bundle. This activation causes the release of inhibitory neurotransmitters within the central nervous system, and reduces the over expression of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, which has been implicated in a number of different disorders.
Many believe that electroceuticals will be the next big wave in medicine and, if successful, could offer a higher degree of control in modulating biological functions and diseases while avoiding unwanted side effects.