WHAT IS IT? Bioelectronics.
Byline: DR MIRIAM STOPPARD
Bioelectronics is new technology developing miniaturised, implantable devices that could replace pills or injections in the future.
The devices will be smaller than a grain of sand. We're not quite there yet but bigger implantable devices are already in use such as vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) for severe epilepsy.
This uses pulsed electrical signals to stimulate the vagus nerve. Under a local or general anaesthetic, a neck incision is made to place a stimulator electrode around the left vagus nerve.
The electrode leads are tunnelled under the skin to the left chest wall and attached to a pulse generator unit (a pacemaker) which is programmed by an external computer to provide a short burst of electrical stimulation, followed by a short rest period.
VNS is approved by NICE for use in drug resistant epilepsy, and possibly for treatment-resistant depression and rheumatoid arthritis where it would suppress destructive inflammatory hormones.