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Redesigning Scrambler Therapy: A Neuropathic Pain Treatment Device

Team Members:
  • Nicholas Sass
  • Allan Belzberg, MD
  • Michael Caterina, MD, PhD
  • Amir Manbachi, PhD
  • Yun Guan, MD, PhD
  • Thomas Smith, MD


Neuropathic pain effects between seven and ten percent of Americans; it lowers patients’ productivity, ability to sleep, and general quality of life. The discomfort is caused by physical damage to a nerve, but the exact source is difficult to pinpoint. Even more challenging is treating the pain, which is highly resistant to physical or pharmaceutical relief. We are building a device that aims to improve the effectiveness of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) devices. TENS devices treat pain by delivering a small and painless electrical current through electrodes placed on the body near the source of pain. The current stimulates nearby healthy nerves to shut down the damaged nerve, a process described by Melzack & Wall’s Theory of Gate Control. Current devices benefit from low side effects, ease of use, and affordability, but tend to lose relief effectiveness over time. Our device, TENS Advanced, maintains relief over the long term by delivering an electrical current based on a high-variability algorithm. Similar products have shown some success, and we plan to clarify both what kinds of signal variation provide the most relief and the physiological effects of the treatment.

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