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article image'Magic' electronic implant leaves arthritis sufferers pain free

By Stephen Morgan     Dec 23, 2014 in Health
A major breakthrough has taken place in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. A revolutionary approach using an electronic implant has brought significant relief to those who suffer the most painful symptoms of the disease.
According to Sky News, scientists at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam, working together with the British drugs company GlaxoSmithKline, have used that an experimental implant, similar to a small pacemaker-type device, which has succeeded in leaving patients "pain free" from rheumatoid arthritis.
Monique Robroek, who was one of the first to receive the implant last year, told Sky News that she was in so much pain before that she could hardly walk across a room, even though she was taking the most powerful arthritis drugs. Her treatment has been so successful that she has now stopped all medication.
Ms Robroek said "I have my normal life back. Within six weeks I felt no pain. The swelling has gone. I go biking, walk the dog and drive my car. It is like magic."
An article in the Guardian explains that the device is implanted in the patient's neck and it sends electrical impulses to the vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the automatic functioning of major organs like the heart and lungs.
Using the device for just three minutes per day, scientists were able to reduce the activity of the spleen. After only a few days, the organ was producing much less of the chemicals and immune cells which cause the inflammation in the joints of arthritis sufferers.
Patients are able to turn the device on and off by passing a magnet over it. The only side effect that has been detected is a certain trembling in the voice, once the device is activated.
According to the Independent, the study follows an earlier trial on eight patients. Because of the lack of harmful side-effects and the benefits that some patients experienced, it led to wider research with more participants.
Out of the group of 20 patients who took part in the recent study, more than 50 percent experienced a major reduction in symptoms of joint pain. The leader of the trial, Professor Paul-Peter Tak told Sky News that the implant could provide an alternative to the use of drugs "by restoring the natural balance in the body.”
“Even in patients who have failed everything, including the most modern pharmaceuticals, we have seen a clear trend of improvement,” he said. Professor Tak predicts they could achieve full remission in up to 30% of people.
Similar types of implants have been used for many years in heart pacemakers and for Parkinson’s disease and the research is part of a wider study of such implants, which could help cure other diseases like asthma, obesity and diabetes.
Kris Famm, another leader in the research, told Sky News, "I hope that in 10-20 years if you or I had diabetes, we would go to the doctor and there is an option to introduce this sort of device onto the nerve that controls that balance. It becomes your treatment instead of insulin injections or pills."
A spokesperson for GSK, which funded the arthritis study, announced that they are investing nearly $50 million in the new research.
“We believe that one day, tiny devices smaller than grains of rice could be used to restore health in a range of chronic diseases centred on organs and biological functions,” he said.
More about Rheumatic arthritis, rheumatoid, Implant, Nerves, Cure
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