The researchers in Germany have successfully developed an implantable device that can reduce blood pressure significantly by sending electrical signals to the brain.
There are 24 individual electrodes in the new device that are integrated into a micro-machined cuff. The device is designed in such a way that it could be wrapped around the vagal nerve. These nerves extend from the brainstem to the thorax and abdomen, supplying and stimulating various major organs including the heart and major blood vessels. The device identifies only those fibres that influence the BP. Those nerves are avoided that are responsible for heart rate, the power of heart beat, ventilation and other vital heart related functions.
It picks up signals from specific sensors, known as baroreceptors, which are activated when blood vessels stretch.
The researchers have carried the study on rats. During the study, the researchers found that the device was able to successfully reduce BP in rats by 40 percent and that too without any major side effects.
According to the researchers, the findings of the study could act as blessing for a significant proportion of patients who do not respond to existing medical treatments.
Lead author Dr Dennis Plachta said, “Our proof-of-concept interface has shown that it is possible to use the left vagal nerve to reduce blood pressure without any adverse side effects, which is important for a wide variety of potential treatments that could utilize nerve stimulation without actually penetrating the nerve.”
“As the device will require surgery, it is not intended to be the first port of call for treatment and will come into play when patients, for whatever reasons, are resistant to medication,” said Plachta while adding, “The long-term goal is to provide ‘treatment-on-demand’ for the patient, whereby the implantable device uses an intelligent circuit to record the activity of the patient, for instance when they are doing exercise, and adjust the blood pressure accordingly.”
The study was published in the Institute of Physics (IOP) Publishing’s Journal of Neural Engineering.