Stimulating the vagus nerve with an implantable bioelectronic device may help improve measures of activity in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients.

This suggestion, from researchers from the Academic Medical Center/University of Amsterdam, the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and SetPoint Medical, was published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

According to the study, researchers implanted a stimulation device on the vagus nerve, then activated and deactivated it based on a set schedule to measure response over 84 days, with primary endpoints measured at day 42 using DAS28-CRP. This is a standard disease activity composite score for RA that includes counts of tender and swollen joints, patient’s and physician’s assessment of disease activity and serum C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, explains a media release from Northwell Health.

Participants included 17 patients with active RA. According to the release, several patients that had failed to respond to multiple therapies, including biologicals with different mechanisms of action, demonstrated robust responses. In addition, the findings indicate that active electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve inhibits TNF production in RA patients and significantly attenuates RA disease severity.

Several patients reported significant symptom improvement, including some who had previously failed to respond to any form of pharmaceutical treatment. In addition, no serious adverse side effects were reported, per the release.

“This is a real breakthrough in our ability to help people suffering from inflammatory diseases,” says co-author Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, discoverer of the inflammatory reflex and co-founder of SetPoint Medical, in the release.

“While we’ve previously studied animal models of inflammation, until now we had no proof that electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve can indeed inhibit cytokine production and reduce disease severity in humans,” he adds.

“These results support our ongoing development of bioelectronic medicines designed to improve the lives of people suffering from chronic inflammatory diseases and give healthcare providers new and potentially safer treatment alternatives at a much lower total cost for the healthcare system,” states Anthony Arnold, chief executive officer of SetPoint Medical, in the release.

{Source(s): Northwell Health, Science Daily]