'Hacking nerves can control disease'
Controlling human nerve cells with electricity could treat a range of diseases including arthritis, asthma and diabetes, a new company says
Galvani Bioelectronics hopes to bring a new treatment based on the technique before regulators within seven years.
GlaxoSmithKline and Verily, formerly Google, Life Sciences, are behind it.
Animal experiments have attached tiny silicone cuffs, containing electrodes, around a nerve and then used a power supply to control the nerve's messages.
One set of tests suggested the approach could help treat type-2 diabetes, in which the body ignores the hormone insulin.
They focused on a cluster of chemical sensors near the main artery in the neck that check levels of sugar and the hormone insulin.
The sensors send their findings back to the brain, via a nerve, so the organ can coordinate the body's response to sugar in the bloodstream.
GSK vice-president of bioelectronics Kris Famm told the BBC News website: "The neural signatures in the nerve increase in type 2-diabetes, BBC reports.
"By blocking those neural signals in diabetic rats, you see the sensitivity of the body to insulin is restored."
And early work suggested it could work in other diseases too.
"It isn't just a one-trick-pony, it is something that if we get it right could have a new class of therapies on our hands," Mr Famm said.