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Rethinking Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rethinking Rheumatoid Arthritis Event

Our 2021 Rethinking Rheumatoid Arthritis Event gave an insight into our ground-breaking research into a new device to reduce inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis; information about the disease; and tips from a hand therapist.


Professor James Fallon: Chief Technology Officer and Head of Research Operations at the Bionics Institute

Dr Sophie Payne: Research Fellow at the Bionics Institute

Associate Professor Evange Romas: Director of Rheumatology at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne

Mr Nick Antoniou: Hand Therapist who treats patients with rheumatoid arthritis


Our device to treat rheumatoid arthritis

Bionics Institute researchers have developed a small electrical device that stimulates the vagus nerve to reduce inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis.

The vagus nerve runs from the brain to the gut with branches to several organs, including the lungs and the heart. Among many other functions, it controls the body’s natural anti-inflammatory response.

Powered by a battery that sits under the skin at hip level, the groundbreaking device has been designed to stimulate the vagus nerve, as needed, to dampen the body’s overactive immune response and prevent long-term damage.

Currently in the early stages of development, the device will eventually be implanted into people with drug-resistant rheumatoid arthritis using key-hole surgery.

Unlike devices under development elsewhere the device is implanted at abdominal level, rather than at the neck level, which means there are no effects on the lungs or the heart.

As the stimulation kickstarts the body’s natural mechanisms, people with rheumatoid arthritis will not experience the side effects associated with current drug therapies.

Find out more about our rheumatoid arthritis device here

Event highlights

Dr Sophie Payne introduces the drug-free treatment being developed

Dr Evange Romas looks in detail at the current treatments available for rheumatoid arthritis

Professor James Fallon explains how the Bionics Institute became involved in arthritis research

Nick Antoniou shares his insights into how hand therapy can play a part in managing rheumatoid arthritis

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