Researchers from Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are reporting a new method of nerve stimulation. This technique could help develop a more efficient and safer functional electrical stimulation (FES) therapy, because it reduces the device’s electrical threshold by 40 percent. The research team, led by Samuel Lin and Jongyoon Han, published their results in last month’s Nature Materials.
The new method prevents electrical impulses from traveling along the nerve, increasing current efficiency for nerve stimulation and allowing researchers to block signals in nearby nerve fibers. It works by manipulating the concentration of charged ions surrounding the nerve. The research team found that the best results in electrical impulse adjustment were achieved by altering the calcium ion concentrations in the fluid surrounding the nerves.
It also uses less electrical current than current FES therapy. Considering that the motor and the sensory nerves are close together, this method could lead to more effective treatment with less side effects, like pain. The team has conducted this research in nerves of frogs and they plan to later test it in mammalian nerves.
Link at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: Improved Method of Electrical Stimulation Could Help Treat Damaged Nerves