Can An Electrical Shock Bring Relief To Arthritis Sufferers?
A zap of electricity to the neck could help make arthritic joints less painful.
Scientists have used a small electric shock generating device to activate a nerve involved in controlling the immune system.
Implanted on the side of the neck, and switched on for as little as a minute a day, it significantly reduced the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, which develops when the immune system attacks the joints by mistake.
Scientists have used a small electric shock generating device to activate a nerve involved in controlling the immune system, significantly reducing the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Excitingly, the coin-sized gadget provided relief for some people for whom no drugs have worked.
And some patients went into complete remission, meaning they were effectively cured.
One woman, who had been in so much pain that she struggled to walk across the room, said: ‘I have my normal life back.
‘I go biking, walk the dog and drive my car. It is like magic.’
One of the most common forms of the disease, rheumatoid arthritis affects some 400,000 Britons.
The wrists, fingers, toes, ankles and knees are particularly susceptible to attack, with women three times as likely to be affected as men.
Drugs do not work for everyone, can cost thousands of pounds a year, and are linked to side effects from upset stomachs to a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes.
An implant would likely be cheaper and, it is hoped, safer.
Dutch researcher Professor Paul-Peter Tak, of the University of Amsterdam, tested the device on 17 rheumatoid arthritis patients, implanting it in a one-hour operation.
Once in place, it was generated tiny electric shocks for between one and four minutes a day.
These activated the vagus nerve, which runs through the body connecting the brain to the major organs, and cut production of the immune system chemicals that drive rheumatoid arthritis.
Symptoms were cut in half in almost 60 per cent of those treated, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.
Dutch researcher Professor Paul-Peter Tak, of the University of Amsterdam, tested the device on 17 rheumatoid arthritis patients, implanting it in a one-hour operation
There were no major side effects, although patients felt a slight tingling and their voice trembled when the device was switched on.
A similar approach is already used to treat epilepsy and it is hoped that in future, the technology could be used to treat other illnesses, including Alzheimer’s disease.
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