(Here is a complete computer animation of it in action, in Windows Media format, from the product's Web site.)
The Simplicity device is introduced into a leg artery, threaded into an artery in the kidney, then zaps some nerves with radio waves. These nerves are part of the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), and reducing its activity, the company feels, can permanently treat a host of diseases.
That's because the kidneys produce a hormone called renin, which can start a cascade of chemical events called the renin-angiotensin- aldosterone -system (RAAS) that constricts blood vessels, elevates the heart rate, and causes retention of salt and water.
This may have been a good thing thousands of years ago, when people were routinely subjected to droughts and famine that required retention of salt and water, and when we had to find energy despite very limited diets. Now, with plenty of food to eat and work time spent sitting at desks, this is no longer a good thing.
What's exciting the medical community today is a study from Australia called the Symplicity HTN-2 trial, showing it can significantly cut blood pressure in people who haven't responded to drug therapy.
It's a small study, just 106 people including controls, but those who got the procedure showed an average reduction of from 178/96 to 146/84. With no complications. The device is already available for use in Australia and Europe. A U.S. trial will be conducted next year.
In June, the company had announced the effect of this treatment remained two years after treatment, and that kidney function remained stable.
Regular readers will know I have a horse in this race. My own hypertension, which comes from both sides of the family, is currently controlled with a combination of two drugs (although sometimes I forget to take mine). The people in this trial were getting no relief even with a combination of three drugs.
Ardian estimates the current U.S. hypertension market is worth $73.4 billion, $18 billion of which is spent on drugs like those I take. The company estimates that only 35% of those with the disease are getting control of it through drugs, while 35% do not get control from drugs and 30% don't get treatment.
In addition to deaths from hypertension itself, the condition can also cause heart failure, resistance to insulin and and kidney failure. The World Health Organization estimates one in three people in the developed world -- about 1 billion people -- are affected by hypertension.
Most sufferers have no obvious symptoms, although some will feel hot, maybe tired when their blood pressure rises through the day. My own condition was diagnosed after I made these complaints at age 44. A neighbor who was not diagnosed died last year at that same age, 44, from sudden heart failure.
So this is a really big deal.