Q&A With Bioengineer Tejal Desai

3 min read

Prof. Tejal Desai is a leader in a field with a big name—biological microelectromechanical systems (BioMEMS)—that deals with very small items. She uses the tools of semiconductor manufacturing to make minuscule medical devices, such as a miniature artificial pancreas and scaffolding for tissue regeneration. She’s been widely recognized as one of the top young scientists in the country, having won distinctions such as the National Academy of Engineering Frontiers in Engineering Award in 2001. Desai, an IEEE member since 1997, recently spoke with IEEE Spectrum from her offices at the University of California, San Francisco.

What can semiconductor manufacturing techniques do for medicine?

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A New Treatment for Arthritis: Vagus-Nerve Stimulation

Studies will soon show whether electroceuticals outperform pharmaceuticals

5 min read
A tablet computer, a smartphone, a grey belt with white stripes, a grey disc, and a small silver rectangle with a wire curled beside it.

Galvani’s system includes a nerve stimulator that attaches to the splenic nerve.

Galvani Bioelectronics

Monique Robroek once had such crippling arthritis that, even with the best available medications, she struggled to walk across a room. But thanks to an electronic implant fitted under her skin, she managed to wean herself off all her drugs and live pain-free for nearly a decade—until recently, when a viral illness made her rheumatoid arthritis (RA) flare up again.

This article is part of our special report Top Tech 2023.

Robroek’s long remission is “very impressive” and rare among patients with RA, says her doctor Frieda Koopman, a rheumatologist at Amsterdam UMC, in the Netherlands. Robroek’s experience highlights the immense potential of so-called bioelectronic medicine, also known as electroceuticals, an emerging field of treatment for diseases that have traditionally been managed with pharmaceuticals alone.

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