The Download: The future of electroceuticals, and bigger EVs

In the early 2010s, electricity seemed poised for a hostile takeover of your doctor’s office. Research into how the nervous system—the highway that carries electrical messages between the brain and the body— controls the immune response was gaining traction.

And that had opened the door to the possibility of hacking into the body’s circuitry and thereby controlling a host of chronic diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and diabetes, as if the immune system were as reprogrammable as a computer.

To do that you’d need a new class of implant: an “electroceutical.” These devices would replace drugs. No more messy side effects. And no more guessing whether a drug would work differently for you and someone else. In the 10 years or so since, around a billion dollars has accreted around the effort. But electroceuticals have still not taken off as hoped.

Now, however, a growing number of researchers are starting to look beyond the nervous system, and experimenting with clever ways to electrically manipulate cells elsewhere in the body, such as the skin.

Their work suggests that this approach could match the early promise of electroceuticals, yielding fast-healing bioelectric bandages, novel approaches to treating autoimmune disorders, new ways of repairing nerve damage, and even better treatments for cancer. Read the full story.

—Sally Adee

Why bigger EVs aren’t always better

SUVs are taking over the world—larger vehicle models made up nearly half of new car sales globally in 2023, a new record for the segment. 

There are a lot of reasons to be nervous about the ever-expanding footprint of vehicles, from pedestrian safety and road maintenance concerns to higher greenhouse-gas emissions. But in a way, SUVs also represent a massive opportunity for climate action, since pulling the worst gas-guzzlers off the roads and replacing them with electric versions could be a big step in cutting pollution. 

It’s clear that we’re heading toward a future with bigger cars. Here’s what it might mean for the climate, and for our future on the road. Read the full story.

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