Scientists have great news for those 1.3 million people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Published in the scientific journal called “Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences,” a new clinical trial shows that electrical stimulation can improve the overall well-being of patients suffering from arthritis.
This chronic system disorder has unknown causes. Around one percent of the population worldwide suffers from rheumatoid arthritis. More than 70 percent of these patients are middle-aged women. This disease which leads to the destruction of articular cartilage in small joints can cause pain and impair movement if it is not treated.
Current treatments are expensive and may prove to be inefficient in some situations. The inflammation of the synovial membrane causes pain and makes the joint stiff and immobile. Severe cases may require surgery to replace the affected joints (knee replacement surgery, for example).
A team of specialists from the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam implanted a bioelectronic device to stimulate the vagus nerve and inhibit the production of cytokines. This technique can attenuate the severity of the disease and improve the overall physical state of the patient. In some fortunate situations, this chronic system disorder went into remission.
The lead author of the paper, Professor Paul-Peter Tak, showed in previous experiments developed on animals or in vitro models of RA that electrical stimulation could reduce the inflammation.
Seventeen patients suffering from rheumatoid Arthritis took part in the research, and all of them reported substantial improvements. Most of these patients did not respond to any of the treatments they had tried before. Moreover, none of the participants in this medical trial reported signs of side effects.
Scientists hope that this discovery will help not only patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis but researchers as well. The suppression of several groups of cytokines which cause an inflammatory process can be used in further research for other inflammatory diseases.
This discovery may pave the way for a new generation of medical treatments based on electrical stimulation. The same principle can be applied to diseases such as Parkinson or Alzheimer.
Moreover, this therapy can replace some potent and expensive drugs which may also have strong and unpleasant side effects. For example, most drugs prescribed for rheumatoid arthritis can interfere with some biologic processes in the human body (digestion, for instance) or increase the risk of a heart attack.
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