The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new device that may help patients with Lou Gehrig's disease breathe easier, without having to resort to a ventilator.
According to the LiveScience
Website, the so-called NeuRx DPS device was implanted in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to provide electrical stimulation to the nerve that innervates the diaphragm as a breathing aid — similar to how a cardiac pacemaker works to stimulate the heart.
When the device stimulates the nerve, the diaphragm contracts, and this helps condition the muscle to improve fatigue resistance during normal exertion.
For ALS patients breathing can be labored and difficult. Lou Gehrig's disease is a rapidly progressing, incurable, and fatal neuromuscular disease that causes muscle weakness and paralysis. For ALS patients, diaphragm weakness can ultimately result in respiratory failure.
Approximately 30,000 people in the United States live with ALS.
More than 5,600 new cases are diagnosed each year, and about 3,300 of those patients might benefit from the device, according to its developers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Next year, Ohio State researchers plan to participate in a national multi-center clinical trial that will try to determine if the device can help treat patients. About 20 Northeast ALS Consortium (NEALS) centers in the United States will participate in the randomized study that will enroll 180 patients.
The NeuRx DPS was developed over 20 years through a joint effort of physicians and engineers at several institutions.