How RA affects people
Unlike osteoarthritis, which occurs when cartilage in the joints breaks down over time, RA can develop at any age. That said, it is more likely to affect people ages 30–60.
In the United States, there are around 1.5 million people with the condition, and it tends to affect around three times as many women than men.
In those with RA, the body’s immune system is overactive and attacks healthy tissue in the body — in this case, the lining of the joints.
Over time, this inflammation can damage cartilage and the bones themselves, with joint spacing becoming more narrow. This results in a loss of mobility and flexibility. Once the damage has set in, it is irreversible; so, the goal is to identify the condition early and treat it aggressively.
Symptoms can vary from person to person, but early symptoms tend to include joint pain or swelling that lasts for 6 weeks or longer, stiffness in the morning that lasts for at least 30 minutes, or both.
RA tends to affect more than one joint, and it also affects smaller joints in the hands, feet, and wrists more often than it does larger joints. Also, RA is often symmetrical and affects joints on both sides of the body.
What does the future hold?
Although surgically implanting small neurostimulators into every person with RA is probably not feasible, reasonable, or required, this study does shine a light on potential therapy that can help those who do not respond well to traditional medications for the condition.
The findings of this research will also pave the way for future studies.
“Our pilot study suggests this novel MicroRegulator device is well tolerated and reduces signs and symptoms of [RA],” says Dr. Mark Genovese, the James W. Raitt Endowed Professor of Medicine at Stanford University in California.
“These data support the study of this device in a larger placebo-controlled study as a novel treatment approach for [RA] and possibly other chronic inflammatory diseases.”