Kristen Sparrow • April 05, 2020
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic and debilitating inflammatory disease characterized by extensive joint tissue inflammation. Implantable bioelectronic devices targeting the inflammatory reflex reduce TNF production and inflammation in preclinical models of inflammatory disease, and in patients with RA and Crohn’s disease. Here, we assessed the effect of applying a vibrotactile device to the cymba concha of the external ear on inflammatory responses in healthy subjects, as well as its effect on disease activity in RA patients.
Six healthy subjects received vibrotactile treatment at the cymba concha, and TNF production was analyzed at different time points post-stimulation. In a separate study, nineteen healthy subjects were enrolled in a randomized cross-over study, and effects of vibrotactile treatment at either the cymba concha or gastrocnemius on cytokine levels were assessed. In addition, the clinical efficacy of vibrotactile treatment on disease activity in RA was assessed in nine patients with RA in a prospective interventional study.
Vibrotactile treatment at the cymba concha reduced TNF levels, and the suppressive effect persisted up to 24 h. In the cross-over study with 19 healthy subjects, vibrotactile treatment at the cymba concha but not at the gastrocnemius significantly reduced TNF, IL-1β, and IL-6 levels compared to pre-treatment baseline (TNF p < 0.05, IL-6 p < 0.01, IL-1β p < 0.001). In healthy subjects, vibrotactile treatment at the cymba concha inhibited TNF by 80%, IL-6 by 73%, and IL-1β by 50% as compared to pre-treatment baseline levels. In RA patients, a significant decrease in DAS28-CRP scores was observed two days post-vibrotactile stimulation at the cymba concha (DAS28-CRP score pre-treatment = 4.19 ± 0.33 vs post-treatment = 3.12 ± 0.25, p < 0.05). Disease activity remained significantly reduced 7 days following vibrotactile treatment (DAS28-CRP score 7 days post-treatment = 2.79 ± 0.21, p < 0.01). In addition, a persistent improvement in visual analogue scale scores, a patient derived measure of global health assessment, was observed in RA patients following vibrotactile treatment.
Application of a vibrotactile device to the cymba concha inhibits peripheral blood production of TNF, IL-1β, and IL-6 in healthy subjects, and attenuates systemic inflammatory responses in RA patients.