Apps for organs: Experts are exploring ways to leverage the body’s electrical system to help it heal

Scientists are finding ways on how to make use of the body’s electrical system to help the body heal, according to a report by Rutgers Today, that even controlling diabetes with just a click of an app on the phone seems possible.

“Our bodies are a lot like rooms in a house. In order to see when you enter a darkened room, you need electricity to turn on the lights. Our body is like that room and has an electrical network that can be used to manipulate and help control how it works,” Luis Ulloa, an immunologist at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, explains.

The study builds on Ulloa and his colleagues’ previous study in 2014 in which they found that transmitting short electrical pulses into mice with the use of acupuncture needles makes the vagus nerve stimulated, thereby preventing sepsis, which is a life-threatening infection that kills about 750,000 Americans every year. The vagus nerve connects the neck, heart, lungs, and abdomen to the brain.

The new study suggests that data available on a wide range of nerve stimulating procedures from ancient traditional acupuncture and the more modern electroacupuncture, to neuromodulation (a procedure that includes implanting electrical devices to relieve chronic pain, pelvic disorders, and Parkinson’s disease) can be beneficial for treating inflammatory disorders such as arthritis and fatal infections like sepsis.

Ulloa says their studies revealed that the stimulation of nerves gives therapeutic benefits in treating colitis, diabetes, obesity, pancreatitis, paralysis, and life-threatening infections. He explains that bioelectronic medicine, which is a new and more advanced version of electroacupuncture, aims to treat chronic diseases with electrical signals in the body with the use of miniature devices that can be implanted in the body to ensure that body organs work properly.

“All you have to do is look at the pacemaker and how it has enabled people with arrhythmias to live long lives,” Ulloa says.

The researchers also believe that this type of medicine could be utilized in every part of the body. Moreover, Ulloa notes that researchers need to compare the data from all the nerve-stimulating procedures to the new studies done in experimental and animal models. However, he says that the effects of acupuncture depend on the experience of the practitioner and the accuracy of the needles. He also notes that further research is needed to identify how and why the procedure can enhance postoperative recovery, arthritis, migraine, joint pain, stroke, post-traumatic stress disorder, and drug addiction.

“In the future, I believe we will be connected to the cell phone in order to control our organ functions,” Ulloa says.

Fast facts on acupuncture

Acupuncture is a treatment that originates from traditional Chinese medicine in which practitioners or acupuncturists stimulate specific points on the body called acupuncture points through inserting needles through the skin. According to some studies, this type of treatment may help relieve some types of chronic pain, such as lower back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis or knee pain. (Related: Acupuncture for osteoarthritic knee pain – It’s more effective than conventional biomedicine, research shows.)

In addition, it may help lower the incidence of tension headaches and prevent migraine headaches. Acupuncture may also be effective in adult post-operative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting. It may also be beneficial as an additional treatment for addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, and asthma.

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