For the first time, the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health presented data showing the effective use of a long-term vagus nerve implant in mice. The data regarding vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), a potential game-changing therapy for multiple chronic conditions, was delivered at the North American Neuromodulation Society (NANS) 2020 Conference in Las Vegas.
Previous preclinical VNS studies have been limited to short-term stimulation -- a timeframe of minutes to hours -- due to the surgical and technological challenges of implanting a stimulator small enough to fit a mouse nerve. In order to conduct mouse studies lasting weeks or even months, Feinstein Institutes researchers, led by Stavros Zanos, PhD, MD, assistant professor in the Institute of Bioelectronic Medicine, developed new techniques to deliver long-term electrical stimulation in mice, an approach that may become the standard for bioelectronic medicine research conducted around the world. For more information see the IDTechEx report on Bioelectronic Medicine 2019-2029.
"The ability to chronically stimulate the vagus nerve through a permanent implant has not been reported before in mice," said Feinstein Institutes researcher Ibrahim Mughrabi, MD, PhD, who presented the data at NANS. "We are eager to continue to advance this new approach and look forward to the positive impact this implant will have on future bioelectronic research around the globe."
In the study, a commercial bipolar cuff electrode was implanted around the left cervical vagus nerve of mice. The electrode functionality was evaluated over up to 90 days after implantation, and through electrocardiogram and breathing sensors researchers were able to measure real-time physiological responses to neurostimulation and adjust stimulation intensity accordingly.
By extending the research window of stimulation, from a single action to up to 90 days, a long-term vagus nerve implant provides new opportunities to investigate more thoroughly the therapeutic potential of chronic VNS in a range of relevant diseases modeled in mice.
"For many years the Feinstein Institutes has enjoyed leading the field of bioelectronic medicine," said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institutes. "Now this milestone promises to accelerate advances in understanding basic mechanisms of bioelectronic medicine."
The research was conducted in collaboration with Robert Froemke, PhD, associate professor at New York University, and Cristin Welle, PhD, assistant professor at University of Colorado.
Source and top image: Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research