A world-first device to treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease

An article published in Frontiers in Neuroscience on 8th May 2019 proves the effectiveness of a world-first device to treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease—a debilitating condition for which there is currently no cure.

Five million people globally are affected by IBD, and every year the condition costs Australian taxpayers $3.1 billion. The cause of IBD is unknown, and symptoms such as fever, fatigue and abdominal pain can be debilitating for sufferers; therefore, a therapy that keeps patients in remission is needed to treat the disease in the long-term.

To address this healthcare gap, Bionics Institute researchers and collaborators have invented and developed a small, implantable device to manage IBD.

The novel device is applied to the abdominal vagus nerve, which connects to the gut, where it then releases electrical stimulation to treat the condition.

The vagus nerve connects the brain and gut. It can immediately detect when the body is inflamed or infected, and once activated has an anti-inflammatory effect in the gut. This device uses the body’s in-built anti-inflammatory system to treat patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease.

Preclinical studies have shown that the device is effective in repairing inflammation of the small intestine—a major ymptom of the disease. Researchers expect that the device will be ready for human trials in September.

Lead researcher Dr Sophie Payne explained the benefit of a bionic solution to treat IBD: alleviating the need for expensive medications. “It’s like fixing broken plumbing with better wiring. I won’t go into too much detail on that analogy, but basically we’re calming down symptoms by activating the body’s own inbuilt anti-inflammatory system.”

“At the moment the only viable treatment available is expensive medication, which only works in 20 percent of cases. The other 80 percent of patients need to have parts of their intestines removed, which is an invasive, sometime dangerous surgical procedure and isn’t great in the long-run. Our device promises to change all that with a once-off insertion that we believe to be safe and effective in the long term.” Said Dr Payne.

This world-first device not only stimulates the abdominal vagus nerve, it also has a novel feedback system which records electrically-evoked neural responses to ensure that therapy is being delivered and is operating effectively.

This device is one-of-a-kind; existing devices on the market are implanted in the neck, which have been shown to cause hoarseness and pain for patients.

This safe, effective and painless method has also been proven in the lab to alleviate symptoms in Crohn’s disease (a form of IBD) .

Read more here

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