Is neurotechnology the solution?
We live in difficult times for our health. Not only the emergence of new diseases has just made this very clear to us. Also many known diseases cannot be treated sufficiently. In addition, the ageing of society poses new challenges to healthcare, while the development of new pharmaceuticals is stagnating. Solutions can emerge from novel approaches such as neurotechnology and bioelectronic medicine.
Several studies since the turn of the millennium have shown that neurological diseases are increasing overall. As early as 2014, Monica DiLuca and Jes Olesen have already put the cost of neurological and psychiatric diseases in Europe at just under 800 billion euros – and the trend is growing. This includes the costs of direct medical care for patients, additional care in the form of nursing, assistive devices, etc. as well as the economic costs of work absences, etc.
Neurotechnology and bioelectronic medicine both focus on electrical stimulation of nerve tissue as a therapeutic tool. This approach has proven to be very promising in research in recent years. Potential forms of therapy are being investigated for an increasing number of clinical applications. However, the transfer of these research results into medical devices for everyday clinical use takes a long time, especially since the ideally suited technologies are often lacking.
Prof. Thomas Stieglitz, member of the Scientific-Technical Advisory Board of CorTec, recently called for more courage and verve in the development of technologies for the research and development of innovative neurotherapies: “Science has the responsibility to contribute to the transfer of ideas into marketable products in the sense of translational research which goes beyond basic science. The discussion whether basic or applied science is ‘better’ does not help a single patient waiting for a new therapy.”
An example of the result of this kind of development work is the Brain Interchange Technology Platform from CorTec. As a complete system, it will soon support responsive applications in a so-called closed loop: In this case, the system continuously monitors the body’s feedback, analyzes the acquired data independently and calculates the therapeutic activity accordingly. This way, personalized therapies will become possible which are tailored to the acute treatment needs of the patient.
The individual components of the Brain Interchange Platform, such as implantable electrodes, are already in use as interfaces to the central and peripheral nervous system for various applications. They support many different areas of basic research, over the research for specific therapeutic approaches up to the development of medical implants for a variety of novel therapies.
DiLuca, M., and Olesen, J. (2014). The cost of brain diseases: a burden or a challenge? Neuron 82, 1205-1208
Stieglitz T. (2020). Of Man and Mice: Translational Research in Neurotechnology. Neuron 105, 12-15