What happens when experts in the fields of neuroscience, consumer electronics, and data science come together? While your first thought is likely, "the most epic party ever," the correct answer is: they develop a cutting-edge neuromodulation device. Cala ONE, by Cala Health, is a non-invasive, neuroperipheral therapy device that aims to provide transient relief of hand tremors in adults with essential tremor. The device is another success story out of the de novo program at FDA, and was granted marketing authorization this past April (2018). To understand the impact of the device, let’s talk a little more about essential tremors.
Essential tremor (ET), also once known as familial tremor, is a common movement disorder affecting almost 10 million Americans, and millions more worldwide. The condition is often confused with Parkinson’s, and causes rhythmic trembling of the limbs, head, and voice. The constant shaking makes it difficult to perform even the most basic daily activities like eating, drinking, and writing. Although the exact causes and mechanisms of the disorder are unknown, it is believed that they are mostly inherited, and are caused by tremulous activity within a central tremor neural network.
Current treatment options for tremors centralize almost entirely around medications. Some of these medications include beta-blockers and anti-seizure drugs that often have undesirable side effects. In cases where medications fail, alternative treatments like Botox injections or invasive surgical options are used, which can also be just as dangerous as the side effects that come with medication. Cala ONE promises to be a non-invasive, non-pharmacological targeted nerve stimulator for symptomatic relief of hand tremors. The device, which looks quite similar to a fitness tracker or smart watch, delivers patterned electrical stimulation to the median and radial nerves— part of the peripheral nervous system— in the wrist, through the skin. Two randomized controlled studies, one being an in-clinic study that included 77 participants, and the other an at-home study that included an additional 61 participants, showed marked improvement in those that received treatment stimulation when compared to those that received sham stimulation. Cala ONE is another device in the ever-expanding area of personalized medicine wherein a physician can measure an individual’s tremor using on-board sensors and tailor the treatment according to the patient.
This new device aims to benefit people with ET who might not be able to do things that were once second nature to them. Our abilities to hold someone’s hand, throw a dog a ball, enjoy a home-cooked meal, and write our name are often taken for granted. Thanks to neuroscience, consumer electronics, and data science experts coming together (and likely having an epic party of the minds), this device stands to benefit many people who have been unable to take those actions for granted.