Bioelectric Medicine

The other day I was listening to a Fresh Air podcast about how researchers are trying to harness the electricity in the human body, which I found to be fascinating new frontier in human medicine.

In the podcast, Fresh Air host Terri Gross was interviewing science writer Sally Adee, an author of the new book,We Are Electric, who told her that “scientists are looking into ways to manipulate the body’s natural electrical fields to try and treat wounds, depression, paralysis, and cancer”.

In a ScienceNews book review article, Meghan Rosen writes Adee makes the case that Bioelectricity is a “shockingly under-­explored area of science that spans all parts of the body. Its story is one of missed opportunity, scientific threads exposed and abandoned, tantalizing clues and claims, “electroquacks” and unproven medical devices — and frogs. Oh so many frogs.”

  • It took decades for scientists to pick up Galvani’s experimental threads and get the study of bioelectricity back on track. Since then, we’ve learned just how much electricity orchestrates our lives, and how much more remains to be discovered. Electricity zips through our neurons, makes our hearts tick and flows in every cell of the body. We’re made up of 40 trillion tiny rechargeable batteries, Adee writes.
  • She describes how cells use ion channels to usher charged molecules in and out. One thing readers might not expect from a book that illustrates the intricacies of ion channels: It’s surprisingly funny.

According to a PubMed article, there are hundreds of ongoing clinical trials to investigate “how harnessing the body’s peripheral wiring might help broadly in the treatment of acute and chronic disease. The results so far appear promising”.

We are electrical machines whose full dimensions we have not even yet dreamed of.

– Sally Adee in We Are Bioelectric

Dr. Thomas Deering, chief of the Arrhythmia Center, Piedmont Heart Institute, and immediate past president of the Heart Rhythm Society, told Medical Development “Millions of patients already depend on bioelectronic medicine, but we are just beginning to envision the many possibilities. As the field develops and matures, it has the potential to address key unmet needs and deliver meaningful benefits for a wide range of patient populations.”

Ken Londoner, founder, CEO, and chairman, BioSig Technologies, told Medical Development “Bioelectronic medicine has the potential to transform healthcare throughout the coming decades, much like we’ve seen with the biotech revolution. But the first order of business for those active in the field is to develop a collective vision for how these technologies can improve lives – a vision that other stakeholders can understand and act on.”