According to a study on biorxiv.org, a method called intranasal mechanical stimulation (INMES) appeared effective in reducing symptoms associated with myalgic encephalomyelitis (also called chronic fatigue syndrome) by around 30 percent. While the exact mechanism of this effect is not well understood, the discovery represents a much-needed sign of progress in the understanding of this disorder and ultimately the implementation of a possible treatment.
About Myalgic Encephalomyelitis
Myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, is a rare condition which is most characterized by long term fatigue and other symptoms which severely impact a person’s ability to fulfill daily tasks. The exact cause of the syndrome is poorly understood. Risk factors may include family history, low physical fitness, old age, mental health problems, and allergies. Women are also more likely to get myalgic encephalomyelitis than men. The characteristic symptom is severe, persistent fatigue that has no definitive cause and is not resolved with rest; other symptoms include difficulty sleeping, worsening of symptoms following exercise, night sweats, sensitivities to certain foods, noise, or odors, muscle and joint pain, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and sore throat. Symptoms may appear gradually or suddenly, and in severe cases can leave a patient bedridden. Some treatments may include energy management strategies such as pacing and changes in diet. To learn more about myalgic encephalomyelitis, click here.
About the Study
Scientists have concluded that the brain appears to play a major role in the mechanism of this rare disease. The brainstem in particular may be of concern, as people who have impairments affecting it display symptoms that bear a resemblance to the condition. This area is also important because the vagus nerve originates from it, which serves as a connection between the nervous and immune systems and serves to help regulate inflammatory activity.
Dysregulation of multiple autonomous mechanisms is a characteristic of myalgic encephalomyelitis, and this combined with immune system abnormalities is what has led researchers to target the vagus nerve. INMEST utilizes a mechanical stimulation to activate nerve endings found in the nasal cavity which are closely connected to the vagus nerve nuclei. The study involved a total of 31 patients whose symptoms ranged from moderate to severe. In the placebo controlled trial, patients were treated with INMEST twice per week for twenty minutes for a single month.
This was eventually extended for another month and only after this duration had been reached did patients see a ~30 percent reduction in symptom score. A number of changes to immune activity appeared to correspond to symptom relief. These included metabolism of immune system cells and inflammation mediated by IL-17.
While much more research will be needed to investigate the impact of INMEST further, the study findings suggest that the procedure could help re-calibrate neuro-immune activity and that a longer period of treatment could produce a more pronounced benefit.