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New implantable device may help lower blood pressure

Researchers from Germany say they have invented an implantable device that reduces blood pressure by sending electrical impulses to the brain, Medical News Today reported.

In a new report published in the Journal of Neural Engineering, a research team from the University of Freiburg detailed their “multichannel cuff electrode” (MCE) – a cuff made up of 24 electrodes that wraps around the vagal nerve. Extending from the brain to thorax and the abdomen, the vagal nerve supplies and stimulates major organs, such as the heart, as well as the blood vessels.

The MCE device is able to identify and stimulate certain fibers in the vagal nerve called baroreceptor fibers, which regulate blood pressure specifically, while avoiding the fibers that affect other major bodily functions.

The researchers tested their device on five male rats, sending 40 electrical pulses per second to the baroreceptor fibers in the rats’ vagal nerves. Through this technique, they were able to reduce the rats’ blood pressure by 40 percent.

Since the MCE must be implanted through surgery, the researchers noted the device wouldn’t be used for all patients with high blood pressure, but for those who do not otherwise respond to blood pressure lowering medications.

"Our proof-of-concept interface has shown that it is possible to use the left vagal nerve to reduce blood pressure without any adverse side effects, which is important for a wide variety of potential treatments that could utilize nerve stimulation without actually penetrating the nerve,” said lead researcher Dr. Dennis Plachta of the University of Freiburg in Germany.

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