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16 Jan 2021

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Could a butterfly implant be the answer to prostate trouble?
Health

Could a butterfly implant be the answer to prostate trouble? 


An implant shaped like a butterfly could help millions of men with enlarged prostates. 

The metal device, roughly the size of a 10p coin, works by forcing swollen prostate tissue away from the walls of the urethra — the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body.

This reduces pressure on the walls of the urethra so that it opens up, helping men go to the loo. It could be a major breakthrough in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which affects an estimated 2.5 million men in the UK.

An implant shaped like a butterfly could help millions of men with enlarged prostates. The new Butterfly Medical device could be an effective surgery-free option [File photo]

An implant shaped like a butterfly could help millions of men with enlarged prostates. The new Butterfly Medical device could be an effective surgery-free option [File photo]

The prostate is a walnut-shaped gland surrounding the urethra which produces components of semen. At different stages in a man’s life, it grows — first during puberty and then from the age of 25 until, in many cases, the prostate presses on the urethra.

The first sign of BPH is usually trouble passing urine. Untreated, it can cause kidney damage or bladder stones and seriously affect quality of life. Treatment often involves drugs, but they can have side-effects. Around 25,000 men a year have surgery to correct the problem. However, this carries a risk of impotence and urinary incontinence, as surgery targets areas full of nerves that control these functions.

The new Butterfly Medical device could be an effective surgery-free option. With the patient under sedation, doctors insert a catheter — a thin plastic tube — through the urethra and feed a thin wire connected to the butterfly implant through it.

The implant is made from nitinol, a ‘memory metal’ which at room temperature can be easily compressed to fit through a catheter, but at body temperature expands back to its original shape.

Using a camera, the collapsed implant is navigated down the urethra and fixed into position in the area squeezed by the swollen prostate.

When the device is released, it springs back to its ‘open’ position — like a butterfly with its wings spread — and instantly prises open the urethra so urine can flow freely once more.

The procedure takes around ten minutes and the gadget is held in place by the pressure it applies to the urethra wall.

It is designed to remain there permanently, but can be removed under local anaesthetic if necessary.

A clinical trial involving 30 men with BPH is under way at four hospitals in Israel. Each man will be fitted with the implant and monitored for at least a year. The results are due next year.

The device has been granted approval in the UK, meaning that it complies with health and safety regulations, and could be rolled out across the NHS and privately in the coming months.

Jeremy Ockrim, a consultant urological surgeon at University College Hospital in London, says similar devices have made some difference in the past, but they failed to match the success rates of conventional surgery.

‘I would recommend something like this to my patients if they were not suitable for, or able to withstand, conventional surgery,’ he adds.

Taking a vitamin D supplement every two weeks could slow the rate at which the prostate becomes enlarged with age, a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), reports the journal Clinical Nutrition. Researchers gave 108 men with early-stage BPH either a fortnightly dose of the vitamin or no treatment. 

The results showed the men who were given nothing had significantly larger prostates. It’s thought the effects may be due to vitamin D’s anti-inflammatory properties. 

Strange links

The surprising links between diseases. This week: Tooth decay and risk of cancer

The more fillings someone has, the lower their risk of head and neck cancer, according to a study published in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology.

Lead researcher Dr Mine Tezal, from the University of Buffalo in the U.S., says it may be related to levels of decay-causing lactic acid bacteria in the mouth.

People who have many fillings tend to have more of these bacteria, and it’s possible they attack cancer cells. The bacteria are known to reduce inflammation linked to other diseases, such as obesity and allergies.

‘It’s not the dental caries [decay] that reduce the risk of cancer, but the beneficial lactic acid bacteria,’ says Dr Tezal.

Melody medicine

How music can improve health. This week: Epilepsy

While it shouldn’t be used to replace medication, research suggests that listening to slow, calming music — specifically Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major — can reduce the number of seizures experienced by those with a common form of epilepsy, known as temporal lobe epilepsy.

This finding, from a study of 21 patients in 2015 by Ohio University in the U.S., was replicated last year in a study at Toronto Western Hospital in Canada, using the same piece of music.

One theory is that seizures are triggered when activity in the brain becomes erratic, but listening to the sonata causes that brain activity to synchronise to the steady tempo, calming it.

Try this

Vegan Horlicks is a dairy-free version of the malt drink with added nutrients, including vitamins C and B12. 

It’s free from artificial sweeteners, too. 

Now £3 for 400g, asda.com 

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