University of Texas to create neurostim system for blood pressure control

red blood cells

University of Texas at Arlington researchers are developing a method to control blood pressure via electrical stimulation rather than drugs.

Blood pressure-controlling drugs used in hypertensive crises have improved significantly over time, but each patient responds differently to these drugs, resulting in various side effects. These include severe headaches, dizziness and respiratory difficulty. Despite this, doctors are only provided with a small range of acceptable doses of these drugs, which they must employ to reduce blood pressure during a crisis without overdoing it and causing low blood pressure, according to a statement.

The NIH awarded the researchers a $440,670 grant for the project, which has two aims. The first is to develop a method to control blood pressure via stimulation to the sciatic nerve or its branches, according to the statement. The researchers will conduct tests that will turn up data suggesting the most effective and precise methods for electrical stimulation.

The second aim is to create a closed-loop system, which can automatically control blood pressure by using real-time blood pressure data from a catheter implanted in the blood vessels, the researchers said in the statement. The system will respond to the measurements to keep blood pressure within an acceptable range in real time. The researchers envision the closed-loop system to be an alternative treatment for hypertensive patients without side effects.

"This is an exciting project which we hope will lead to further developments in the field of using nerve stimulation as a therapy to modulate organ system function; not just for hypertension control, but a much wider range of conditions such as diabetes, sleep apnea, chronic pain and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders," said Muthu Wijesundara,division head for the biomedical division at the University of Texas at Arlington Research Institute, in the statement.