A new military-sponsored program aims to develop a tiny device that can be implanted in the body, where it will use electrical impulses to monitor the body's organs, healing these crucial parts when they become infected or injured.
Known as Electrical Prescriptions, or ElectRx, the program could reduce dependence on pharmaceutical drugs and offer a new way to treat illnesses, according to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the branch of the U.S. Department of Defense responsible for developing the program. [5 Crazy Technologies That Are Revolutionizing Biotech]
"The technology DARPA plans to develop through the ElectRx program could fundamentally change the manner in which doctors diagnose, monitor and treat injury and illness," Doug Weber, program manager for DARPA's biological technologies office, said in a statement.
The implant that DARPA hopes to develop is something akin to a tiny, intelligent pacemaker, Weber said. The device would be implanted into the body, where it would continually assess a person's condition and provide any necessary stimulus to the nerves to help maintain healthy organ function, he added.
The idea for the technology is based on a biological process known as neuromodulation, in which the peripheral nervous system (the nerves that connect every other part of the body to the brain and spinal cord) monitors the status of internal organs and regulate the body's responses to infection and disease. When a person is sick or injured, this natural process can sometimes be thrown off, according to DARPA. Instead of making a person feel better, neuromodulation can actually exacerbate a condition, causing pain, inflammation and a weakened immune system.