Nerve stimulation therapy "shows promise to treat rheumatoid arthritis"

Bioinformatics scientists at the Feinstein Institute of Medical Research have teamed up with their counterparts from the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to conduct a series of experimental clinical studies to assess the effect of a new bioelectronic stimulation.

These studies show that non-invasive stimulation in the external ear improves the symptoms of the disease in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). These findings were first published today at Bioelectronic Medicine. An emerging field of science, bioelectronic medicine is based on neuroscience, focuses on molecular targets and develops biomedicine to exploit the nervous system to treat illnesses and injuries without the use of pharmaceuticals.

RA is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by pain, edema and stiffness of the joints. It affects about 1.3 million people in the United States and costs tens of billions of dollars a year for treatment. Typically, signs and symptoms of this condition are treated using synthetic and biological antirheumatic drugs. However, these drugs can lead to side effects and may not be effective in all RA patients.

In this pilot study, Feinstein Institute Professor Sangeeta S. Chavan, along with Meghan E. Addorisio, BS, examined the effectiveness of non-invasive stimulation of the vagus nerve to reduce inflammation and improve the severity of the disease in patients with PA. They found that bioelectronic medical treatment was effective in inhibiting the production of cytokines, inflammatory-mediated proteins and reducing inflammatory responses in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

"Our primary goal was to see if a non-invasive treatment with an external device would be effective in improving the severity of rheumatoid arthritis disease that continues to plague more than a million all over the country every year," Dr Cavan said. "We are pleased to note that this new bioelectronic therapy significantly reduces swelling and inflammation associated with RA".

"This clinical research suggests that non-invasive stimulation could suppress inflammation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis," said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, chairman and chief executive of the Feinstein Institute and co-author of the journal.