BARCELONA Aug 30 A Boston Scientific
device that stimulates the vagus nerve - a superhighway
connecting the brain to the rest of the body - failed to help
patients with heart failure in a mid-stage clinical trial.
Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), which involves delivering
mild electrical pulses to the nerve in the neck, is already used
to treat epilepsy and depression - and researchers have been
looking to expand its use to other conditions.
Faiez Zannad from the University of Lorraine in France, who
led the study, said the failure of the device to improve cardiac
function was surprising as pre-clinical research findings had
Heart failure is a serious, progressive disease in which the
heart fails to pump blood properly. It causes shortness of
breath, fatigue and fluid retention, and is often fatal.
Results from the U.S. medical technology company's NECTAR-HF
trial, involving 95 heart failure patients in Europe, were
unveiled on Saturday at the annual meeting of the European
Society of Cardiology (ESC).
Patients enrolled in the study had a VNS device implanted in
their neck, near the right vagus nerve. Some of the patients had
the devices switched off, while the others received regular
stimulation. After six months, the study found no difference
between the two groups.
The result is a disappointment for Boston Scientific and
Zannad said there were several possible explanations, including
the fact that a stronger electrical pulse may have been needed
and it might take longer than six months to show a benefit.
Boston Scientific officials were not immediately available
Cyberonics, the leading proponent of VNS in
difficult-to-treat epilepsy and treatment-resistant depression,
is also to present results from a clinical study in heart
failure to the ESC meeting on Monday.
VNS involves a pacemaker-like device the size of a small
watch being surgically implanted under the skin on the patient's
chest. A wire is then threaded under the skin connecting it to
the vagus nerve and, when activated, the device sends electrical
signals to various areas of the brain.
(Reporting by Ben Hirschler. Editing by Jane Merriman)