Those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis may soon get reprieve from the pain as scientists have developed a new electronic implant that alleviates the discomfort.
Researchers in the Netherlands, in tandem with GlaxoSmithKline, observed 20 patients who took part in the research, and inserted the pacemaker-like electronic implants in their necks.
The implant basically sends electrical signals to the electrodes that have been inserted into the neck surgically.
The electronic implant could be switched off and on at will by stimulating the vagus nerve, which was done by moving a magnet over the implant. The vagus nerve is pivotal in monitoring the immune system's activity via the spleen.
Nearly half the patients in the study group revealed that they experienced less symptoms of joint pain during the experiment and reported that they were "pain free."
One of the subjects Monique Robroek, reveals that prior to the study she could barely walk across the room as a result of the excruciating rheumatoid arthritis pain. Even strong medication did little to ease the pain. However, post the "magic" implant, Robroek may be able to go biking and in six weeks she reveals the swelling is gone.
The study, which has been conducted Amsterdam's Academic Medical Centre, was based on the pilot that was carried out on eight volunteers. These subjects agreed to take part in the research due to the absence of side effects that could harm them, as well as the benefits of the process.
The clinical trial was led by Professor Paul-Peter Tak, who divulged that the electronic implants may be an alternate to the use of drugs for treating arthritis. He added that patients who have not seen any improvement post other treatment methods, including drugs, experience betterment post the implant.
"We may be able to achieve remission in 20 percent to 30 percent of patients, which would be a huge step forward in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis," said Professor Tak. "It is very appealing to patients because they do not want to take medicines for 30 to 40 years. It's also restoring the natural balance in the body."
GlaxoSmithKline is hopeful that the electronic implant can be developed further so that it can be deployed for a wide range of chronic ailments that could profit from nerve simulation electrically.