Electromagnetic Depression Treatment Nears Approval

Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation adds to psychiatry’s arsenal of electronicremedies

3 min read
Image of man's brain.
Image: John Lund/Getty Images

A new type of brain stimulation device for combating difficult-to-treat cases of major depressive disorder is likely to break into the large American market soon. Its maker, Jerusalem-based Brainsway, plans to apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for permission to market the device this month. The move follows initial results from a large-scale trial of the system, in which 30.4 percent of treated patients went into remission and 36.7 percent showed significant improvement. Research into device-based treatments for psychiatric problems has grown rapidly, and if the FDA gives its go-ahead, Brainsway’s system will become the fourth device-based therapy to go on the market since 2005.


Deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), as its name suggests, uses magnetic fields to stimulate activity in structures deep in the brain. The patient wears a helmet in which powerful, specially designed electromagnets have been carefully positioned. When a pulse of electricity flows through the magnets’ coils, the resulting magnetic field induces current to flow through a portion of the brain. 


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This CAD Program Can Design New Organisms

Genetic engineers have a powerful new tool to write and edit DNA code

11 min read
A photo showing machinery in a lab

Foundries such as the Edinburgh Genome Foundry assemble fragments of synthetic DNA and send them to labs for testing in cells.

Edinburgh Genome Foundry, University of Edinburgh

In the next decade, medical science may finally advance cures for some of the most complex diseases that plague humanity. Many diseases are caused by mutations in the human genome, which can either be inherited from our parents (such as in cystic fibrosis), or acquired during life, such as most types of cancer. For some of these conditions, medical researchers have identified the exact mutations that lead to disease; but in many more, they're still seeking answers. And without understanding the cause of a problem, it's pretty tough to find a cure.

We believe that a key enabling technology in this quest is a computer-aided design (CAD) program for genome editing, which our organization is launching this week at the Genome Project-write (GP-write) conference.

With this CAD program, medical researchers will be able to quickly design hundreds of different genomes with any combination of mutations and send the genetic code to a company that manufactures strings of DNA. Those fragments of synthesized DNA can then be sent to a foundry for assembly, and finally to a lab where the designed genomes can be tested in cells. Based on how the cells grow, researchers can use the CAD program to iterate with a new batch of redesigned genomes, sharing data for collaborative efforts. Enabling fast redesign of thousands of variants can only be achieved through automation; at that scale, researchers just might identify the combinations of mutations that are causing genetic diseases. This is the first critical R&D step toward finding cures.

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