An interdisciplinary research team funded by the National Institutes of Health and coordinated by the University of Minnesota brings together eight institutions across the globe for first-of-its-kind research on human vagus nerve stimulation. The BioRobotics Institute of the Sant'Anna School, is among the partners of the project with the group led by Silvestro Micera, professor of Electronic Bioengineering and Computer Sciences. REVEAL (an acronym for Research Evaluating Vagal Excitation and Anatomical Links) has received $21 million in funding and aims to study the anatomical connections and functional effects of vagus nerve stimulation, or VNS, which is an FDA-approved treatment for epilepsy and depression.
The role of the BioRobotics Institue
"Our team", explains Silvestro Micera, "will work on the development of advanced modalities based on artificial intelligence and biophysics to achieve more effective neuromodulation of the vagus nerve and to accelerate the translation to personalized medicine”.
REVEAL incorporates a large-scale clinical study with up to 144 VNS patients along with three ancillary studies. Together, these studies will assess autonomic, cardiovascular, metabolic, immune, and gastrointestinal function in response to a broad range of VNS parameters. Researchers hope to generate one of the largest publicly available datasets on VNS function in humans.
“The vagus nerve conveys information from the brain to most organs in the body and viceversa,” said John Osborn, PhD, a professor of surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School and director of the Minnesota Consortium for Autonomic Neuromodulation. “Dysregulation of the vagus nerve underlies many pathological conditions, and we are just now discovering ways to modulate it to treat them.”
“VNS has a proven record treating refractory epilepsy and depression,” said Ziad Nahas, MD, a professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School and a psychiatrist at M Physicians. “The exciting aspect of REVEAL is that it will set the stage for novel therapeutic applications of VNS to autonomic, immune, cardiovascular, and metabolic diseases.”
On the cover: Photo from University of Minnesota Medical School.