Prof. Khalil Ramadi is an Assistant Professor of Bioengineering and Director of the Laboratory for Advanced Neuroengineering and Translational Medicine at New York University (NYU) Abu Dhabi. His work focuses on developing new tools and technologies for treatment a variety of neurologic, endocrine, and immune disorders. For this work, Prof. Ramadi has been named a TED junior fellow and MIT Technology Review Innovator Under 35 (MENA), and received multiple honors including the NIH F32 Ruth Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellowship, BMES Career Development Award, and a NASA Aeronautics Scholarship. He holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering and Medical Physics from MIT, a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, and B.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering from the Pennsylvania State University.
Zapping the Gut
If you walk into a hospital today, chances are you will most likely walk out with medications or have a procedure like surgery. These two toolkits are the workhorses of medicine.
My lab seeks to develop a third toolkit that is less invasive than surgery and with fewer side-effects than medicine. We develop electronic pills for neuromodulation.
For many years, neuromodulation has been used to treat various disorders of the nervous system. The nervous system is a complex set of circuits. Disorders usually occur because one node in these circuits is malfunctioning. Neuromodulation techniques involved poking wires into heads and limbs and zapping with magnetic or electrical pulses. This approach was much like trying to fix a pipe leak by renovating the entire building.
A new therapy we are developing could treat neurologic disorders with an electronic pill. These pills contain micro-devices that deliver bionudges, or little bursts of electrical stimuli, to the gut. The gut has the second largest number of neurons after our brain. Our electronic pills can be designed to reside in the gut for days to weeks, delivering bionudges to neurons. By stimulating various points with bionudges of different shape and strength, we can control appetite, influence digestion, regulate hormones, and potentially even control emotions.
Picture a pill that does not have drugs or chemicals in it. Instead, there are electronics and microdevices that deliver bursts of energy. It can treat Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, or obesity without any chronic drugs and completely noninvasively. No side-effects, no drill, no surgery, no hospital stay.