Feinstein Institute enrolling lupus patients in bioelectronic medicine study

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Dr. Cynthia Aranow is the lead investigator for Feinstein Institute's study using bioelectric medicine to treat lupus. (Photo courtesy of Northwell Health)

Dr. Cynthia Aranow and Northwell Health’s Feinstein Institute for Medical Research recently kicked off a pilot program to study the effect of bioelectronic medicine in lupus patients.

Aranow, the clinical trial’s lead investigator, said the debilitating disease affects millions of people, predominately women, with a host of manifestations ranging from mild to severe.

The study, supported by The John and Marcia Goldman Foundation, focuses on the pain typically associated with the auto-immune disease, which Aranow said comes from inflammation of the muscles, tendons and joints. Inflammation is caused by the immune system attacking the body.

About 20 years ago, Feinstein Institute President and CEO Kevin Tracy identified the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway, Aranow said, which is the body’s natural way of dealing with inflammation.

The study focuses around the stimulation of the vagus nerve to decrease inflammation. Participants are treated for five minutes a day on four consecutive days with a device that emits electrical pulses through the patient’s ear.

“It is not painful,” Aranow said. “Some people don’t feel anything, and one patient described it to me as blade of grass fluttering in the wind on her ear.”

A European study was published last year, Aranow said, looking at the benefits of a surgical implant to stimulate the vagus nerve in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

Aranow said common treatments for lupus patients include Prednisone and a number of other immune suppressants that come with a laundry list of negative side effects, including weight gain, acne, elevated blood pressure and bone loss.

“They have a whole slew of side effects, including immune suppression, increased risk of infection and increased risk of cancer as well as specific side effects for each medication,” Aranow said. “Prednisone is probably the most commonly used medication for lupus, and the list of side effects is pages.”

Aranow said the goal of the study is to help many patients reduce their oral medications by adding bioelectronic medicine into treatment plans.

Aranow said the study is still enrolling participants. For more information, call Aranow at (516) 562-3845 or email her at CAranow@northwell.edu.

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