How Bioelectronics is Changing Medicine
Technology is paying the way toward a future less reliant on drugs
By Dr. Blake Gurfein, Chief Scientific Officer, Tivic Health Systems Inc.
The medical community is just at the tip of the iceberg in developing novel bioelectronic therapies for treating chronic conditions and diseases. And as we have seen with other technologies, paradigm shifts can happen fast.
My company, Tivic Health Systems Inc., developed a bioelectronic device that uses advanced microcurrent technology (low-level electrical stimulation) to treat allergy-related sinus pain: ClearUP Sinus Pain Relief. It is just the latest example of a growing trend in medical devices that harness the power of technology, while keeping patients safer than many traditional treatments.
Bioelectronic devices work by taking very carefully determined levels of electrical current and frequencies to stimulate the nervous system and alleviate symptoms, and sometimes causes, of chronic illnesses. Using these devices, we can move toward reducing our dependence on pharmaceuticals. Drugs travel through the body to treat an illness but also enter our systemic circulation, which is why they can cause such broad side effects.
Many companies have developed implantable and noninvasive devices that target nerves related to medical conditions such as essential tremor (Cala Health), migraine headache (electroCore), sinus pain (Tivic Health), and rheumatoid arthritis (Setpoint Medical) by stimulating the body to produce factors that it very tightly regulates.
ClearUP works by stimulating the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for transmitting information about pain and pressure in the face. It also stimulates the sympathetic fibers of the autonomic nervous system, which then results in vasoconstriction and reduced swelling.
Drugs versus Devices
In contrast to pharmaceuticals, a bioelectronic device can stimulate the body’s natural ways of regulating pain, blood flow, and swelling, which reduces the likelihood that the pathway will get over-activated. ClearUP stimulates nerve fibers that are part of an intricate network within the body and are tied to our biological systems.
This is synergistic with what we are hearing from consumers—they like that it’s drug free, there are few to no side effects, and that it’s not a systemic treatment.
The advantages of bioelectronic solutions are many: They are safer, benefit from the body’s natural protective mechanisms not to over-activate a particular pathway, and are more targeted to the treatment areas that need to be brought back to into homeostasis.
As the bioelectronics industry continues to build its knowledge base and invest in both basic science and clinical research, these devices will become more effective and we will be able to tackle more serious and challenging chronic conditions.