Medical science has made a revolutionary break-through in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis using a new electronic implant.
An autoimmune disease, which can have crippling effects for many sufferers, rheumatoid arthritis, is more prevalent than many of us realise. In the UK there are some 400,000 sufferers, and in the United States the figure is nearly 2,000,000.
The immune system is our body’s natural defence against invasion by foreign bacteria, and viruses. When this system goes wrong it can begin to attack our organs and joints, mistaking them for invading organisms. Early diagnosis is necessary to prevent major damage to organs such as the heart.
Severity of the disease varies from person to person, and flare ups from day to day. With no known cure, treatment is limited to medication which helps reduce pain, inflammation, and stiffness of the joints.
Now, there is new hope for sufferers. A revolutionary implant is currently being trialled at the Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam, Holland. This small pacemaker is implanted in the neck of severe arthritis suffers, and interferes with the body’s nervous system.
A magnet drawn across the implant by the patient, activates it. Within seconds it causes the voice to tremble, which lasts for approximately three minutes. The unit then begins sending electrical pulses to the ‘vagus’ nerve, which carries signals from the brain to the body’s vital organs, including the spleen.
Within days, swelling of the joints diminishes, and pain subsides.
Strangely, researchers still do not wholly understand how it all works. It is believed that the impulses, which are fired for just three minutes a day, affect the spleen, which produces fewer immune cells, and reduced chemicals. This allows the inflammation to reduce, and the joints to return to normal.
While much research is yet to be done, scientists are already hopeful that similar treatments could improve the lot of those suffering such diseases as diabetes, asthma, and obesity. If trials of the treatment prove successful, daily use of drugs to keep the symptoms at bay could be a thing of the past.
Professor Paul-Peter Tak, is quoted as saying ‘Even in patients who have failed everything, including the most modern pharmaceuticals, we have seen a clear trend of improvement. We may be able to achieve remission in 20% to 30% of patients, which would be a huge step forward in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.’ It is hoped the treatment will be widely available within ten years.
Monique Robroek, one of the patients taking part in these clinical trials, used to suffer so much pain and swelling she could hardly cross a room. This, while on the strongest drugs possible. Now, having had an implant for a year, she is pain and swelling free, and has stopped taking all other medication.
’I have my normal life back,’ she said, when interviewed by Sky News. Researchers say, other than the voice tremor when activating the implant, no other side effects have been found.
For those who have been diagnosed with early symptoms of the disease, self help is of prime importance. Staying active and exercising the joints to keep them flexible and build up muscle bulk, should be carried out on a regular basis. Eating a varied, nutritional diet, and keeping weight under control, all help to slow the disease.
Images care of: By Arnavaz at fr.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
By Wouterstomp at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
By Jojo at pl.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
A British expat who has lived on this Island of Tenerife for over twelve years.A full time freelance writer, most of my time is spent article writing. I also write on D2C, Writedge, and wherever takes my fancy. For fun I try to increase my portfolio of short stories, with a view to eventually getting them published.