One small virus.
One small virus is all it takes to change the course of your life, and regardless of your intentions, it causes damage nevertheless.
That was the reality that I, along with my five friends, came across recently. We investigated how a single virus, smaller than one could ever hope to see, could plague over 40 million people worldwide.
This virus is known as HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), and over time, it gnaws out any trace of an immune system that one might have had before. One thing turns to another, and we see that HIV leads to AIDS, which inevitably leads to death.
I saw people shivering, with their bones brittle and their eyes glazed, overtaken by a single virus. People who could barely afford to diagnose, let alone treat their disease.
My friends and I wondered why a single virus could cost you $20,000 in treatment every single year, or $400,000 over a lifetime. A lifetime that would ultimately be cut short with unbelievable suffering.
Why accept this reality when the tools to change it are in front of you?
My team questioned this reality and created the basis for a solution in the process. We created CerebroStim — an all-in-one treatment platform to revolutionize how we see HIV and disease as a whole.
CerebroStim revolves around the remarkable findings shared by dozens of peer-reviewed articles on nervous stimulation. As many of us know, specific nerves in our body are responsible for their unique functions.
A study conducted by the Laboratory of Immune Response Dynamics in Osaka showed that the stimulation of the vagus nerve resulted in significant changes in the immune response of mice. The vagus nerve acts as an integral part of our body’s physiological balance (homeostasis). Even if you don’t notice what your vagus nerve does behind the scene, you couldn’t survive without it.
Besides regulating involuntary actions such as heart rhythm, the vagus nerve is responsible for managing our body’s most complex immune response. Our bodies have many different outlets when it comes to regulating our immune reactions, and these outlets are what are known as immune pathways.
To be specific, the vagus nerve controls a response known as the splenic immune response, done through the cholinergic immune pathway. The vagus nerve has such control of this pathway that these were the findings from a study done by the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research:
“CNI-1493 in the brain reduced production of TNF-α throughout the animal’s body. Other experiments showed that it did this about 100,000 times more potently than when injected straight into the bloodstream”
In this scenario, CNI-1493 was an experimental drug that was meant to reduce the presence of an inflammatory protein known as Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF). The splenic nerve response is directly responsible for this enormous jump in the drug’s efficacy.
Kevin Tracey, the head researcher in this study, noticed that when the brain was fed directly with CNI-1493, there was a ripple of electricity that flowed down the vagus nerve. Similarly, by mimicking this electrical impulse rather than administering an actual drug, we can trigger the same magnified immune response in the splenic pathway.
Stimulation of the vagus nerve results in communication towards the splenic nerve, hence the name splenic response. In turn, the splenic nerve releases and encourages the production of the hormone norepinephrine. When norepinephrine interacts with a T-Cell, it allows it to release a chemical known as acetylcholine (ACh) endogenously (within the body).
This whole series of intricate communications stemming from your vagus nerve is what regulates your immune response, and CerebroStim aims to augment this system for patients with HIV.
To my team’s surprise, researchers have been stimulating the vagus nerve since the 1990s to treat conditions such as epilepsy and depression.
Currently, we are in the prototyping phase of a discreet, $10 patch that can be used to stimulate the vagus nerve safely and effectively — all with a couple of taps on a smartphone.
Available to even the most remote locations, our device administers extremely low-dose pulses of 1 milliamp electricity, to the extent where you can barely notice them. We’ve designed this patch as a non-invasive pacemaker for HIV, allowing patients to get effective treatments in real-time.
We’re also focusing on creating an easy-to-access, transparent method for doctors and patients to monitor and update treatments through a mobile app. In terms of security and transparency, CerebroStim will never allow any data to be compromised, and the development of our system is progressing with this thought in mind.
Despite the reality of HIV being grim, CerebroStim hopes to make the future less of a struggle. People shouldn’t have to fear a single virus, and that’s our dream at CerebroStim — redefining disease, and we won’t stop until THAT dream becomes a reality.
Thank you for reading!
This innovation was registered as a CES Young Innovators Award Submission, so if you like the concept of this device, feel free to read more and show us support here ❤️