Pills are quickly going out of style. Ok, so the SmartPill and microchip embedded pills are still cool, but regular old blood pressure medication is as un-hip as it gets. Thankfully the Minneapolis company CVRx realizes this and has created the Rheos system. The system, currently in its fourth year of clinical trials, is an implantable device similar to the pacemaker that controls blood pressure without any need for medication. Body 2.0, here we come.
The system, like most brilliant inventions, is really quite simple. A generator implanted under the skin sends an electric current through the Baroreflex, a pressure sensing nerve located along the walls of the carotid artery, telling the brain that blood pressure is high. By over-stimulating these nerves, the brain is capable of responding normally to high blood pressure situations by lowering the heart rate and dilating blood vessels. With this device, it is possible to continuously ensure that blood pressure is at an optimum level, allowing much more control over the symptoms than normal medicines. Maintaining a healthy blood pressure reduces strain on the circulatory system. If high blood pressure is not managed, the patient is at greater risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure.
The system is installed in a 2-3 hour procedure, wherein the cell-phone sized generator is placed under the skin by the collarbone. Leads are then run from the device through to either side of the carotid artery. Clinical trials are currently open to those who have tried all blood-pressure medication and seen no effect. Follow this link if you or someone you know may be interested in signing up. Still not convinced? Take a look at the video below to see a report on the Rheos system:
Unlike some other (perhaps cooler) features here on Singularity Hub, this one is on the home stretch. It is not a commonplace procedure quite yet, but it is poised to become one in a matter of years. There will no longer be a need to continually take pills or be at risk for an early demise from the nuisance of high blood pressure. Although a bit of a niche product, for those who are suffering, it could be one of the most useful inventions in decades.
There has been quite a lot of hubbub lately about the body 2.0 revolution, a meld of man and machine where all of the body’s systems are constantly monitored for optimal health. This system certainly fits in with the spirit of the revolution, but it is not the herald of an imminent integration of body 2.0. This device, however, does indicate that modern science and medicine is on the right track of making such a dream into a reality.
The thought of optimizing the brain, using electrical signals through nerves to fool the brain into working around its natural faults, is an intriguing one. Medications are currently effective, but much more control could be exerted over many different disorders by interfacing directly with the brain. As doctors discover more of what each part of the brain controls, implants may be able to be created to cure patients who show symptoms of those slight malfunctions. Asthma, thyroid, and obesity may be just the tip of the iceberg of common ailments that could be targeted next for implantable control. Perhaps the best medicine really is electricity.