May 4, 2020
Dr. Kevin Tracey is the president and CEO of the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research. He is very well-known and well-cited for his seminal research within the field of neuromodulation, particularly as it relates to the immune response. In this episode, he discusses the current progress being made in the field of bioelectronic medicine, as well as how it compares to pharmaceutical treatments.
Top three takeaways:
[0:00] Ladan introduces the episode and the guest, Dr. Kevin Tracey
[2:00] Tracey discusses his background in research in bioelectronic medicine and neuromodulation in the immune system
[6:00] What’s so powerful about bioelectronic medicine is that it’s scalable, replicable, and generates testable hypotheses. The device is designed around the target.
[9:00] Side effects are the main limiting factor for drugs. With devices, the side effects are easier to understand and manage since a specific nerve and region are targeted, as opposed to drugs, which have a systemic effect.
[12:30] Tracey co-founded SetPoint Medical with Dr. Shaw Warren, and it was founded to establish a mechanism to test the idea of harnessing the inflammatory reflex in human clinical trials
[16:45] When stimulating the vagus nerve, several fibers are stimulated. Despite this, controlling the amount of current delivered through stimulation can control which organs (such as the heart or spleen) are affected.
[20:30] The field of bioelectronic medicine has been slowed down by the absence of available tools that can be used for mice
[23:45] Bioelectronic medicine is still in its early stages and is new in terms of clinical testing and adoption; at this point, we don’t fully know its efficacy relative to pharmaceuticals
[27:00] One study found that patients who have not responded to drugs or to vagus nerve stimulation did respond when a combination of the two was used
[31:00] The advantage of targeting close to the organ is more localized stimulation, but the disadvantage is that some of these organs are difficult to access
[34:00] The mission of the Feinstein Institute for Bioelectronic Medicine is to produce the necessary knowledge in bioelectronic medicine to cure disease
[37:00] The new labs the Feinstein Institute is building are investigating the neural control of drug targets, neural information processing, sensory and motor signals to nerves, and previously unrecognized neurons that control aspects of the immune response