A new study published in Nature Communications outlines our group’s results using focused ultrasound stimulation within peripheral organs to precisely activate autonomic nerve circuits. The concept is demonstrated by modulating two different (and potentially therapeutic) targets in animal models, a neuroimmune connection in the spleen (that modulates blood cytokine concentrations) and a nutrient sensory pathway within the liver (that modulates metabolism). Connected to this work is a companion Nature Communications publication that utilizes an ultrasound stimulus focused on the spleen to reduce disease severity in a serum-transferred rodent model of inflammatory arthritis. These reports highlight the growing evidence that ultrasound energy (previously shown to enable activation or modulation of central nervous system pathways) may be used to perform peripheral neuromodulation. In this commentary, we highlight the main findings and discuss their implications for new forms of ultrasound-based therapy. Though challenges remain, a new noninvasive method for precision neuromodulation could solve many of the challenges facing the nascent field of bioelectronic medicine. That is, the use of ultrasound to directly modulate neurophysiological systems therapeutically may provide alternatives to traditional pharmaceuticals. However, to alter the current pharmaceutical paradigm, the field will need to develop a new understanding of how traditional drug concepts (such as dose and pharmacokinetics-pharmacodynamics) relate to the parameters, protocols, and outcomes of this new stimulation technology.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This commentary describes research in which portions were developed with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) (HR0011-18-0040). The views, opinions, and/ or findings expressed are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the official views or policies of the Department of Defense of the U.S. government.
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- bioelectronic medicine
- medical device