News Picks : Nerve-stimulating implants are a growing field of research
Nature: The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) will be announcing a $248 million project to map the body's electrical system and to develop medical implants that can be used to stimulate nerves as a treatment for diseases. A similar project is already underway at pharmacological research company GlaxoSmithKline. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a sleep apnea device that stimulates the muscles that control breathing. And another device awaits FDA approval: Designed for weight control, it stimulates the vagus nerve to make a person feel full. The benefit of such devices is that, unlike pharmaceuticals, they can target specific problems. However, the understanding of why those devices work is still limited. The goal of the NIH project is to provide a much clearer understanding of the nervous system to allow for improvements in and faster development of stimulus implants.