New hope for bowel disease sufferers
Life can be very difficult for the one in 250 people affected by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). We are investigating new ways of treating and monitoring these conditions, including the development on automated, implantable devices to safely and effectively treat the symptoms of IBD.
What is inflammatory bowel disease?
The two major types, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are chronic, debilitating conditions that first emerge in young adulthood and can relapse throughout patients’ lives. The exact causes of these conditions are unknown. Progressive damage of the intestines leads to profound fatigue, pain and diarrhea and often results in the need for multiple surgical resections. Many patients experience significant impairment in their quality of life and ability to engage in activities of daily living.
How can bionics help?
The vagus nerve runs from the brainstem to the gut and plays a key role regulating gut function. However, the critical role of the vagus nerve in the immune function of the intestine has only recently begun to be described. Research has shown that stimulating the vagus nerve may provide a novel therapy for IBD.
What stage is the research at?
We’ve shown the efficacy of vagus nerve stimulation using a custom made prototype device and novel stimulation site in a model of IBD. Once our pre-clinical safety and efficacy studies with our collaborators are completed, we will conduct first-in-human trials with IBD patients at the Austin Hospital, with the ultimate aim of making this device available to IBD sufferers around the world.
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