Could the medieval cure for blood vessels be a treatment for arthritis? A review of studies involving nearly 1,000 people suggests that the age-old therapy, largely abandoned in modern medical practice, could actually be nearly 40 percent more effective in treating the condition than the painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs currently in use. .
Arthritis is estimated to affect more than 2 million people in the UK - with increasing cases due to dietary and lifestyle changes. However, some researchers now believe that bloodshed can ease the symptoms by lowering inflammation and the level of uric acid, a known cause of arthritis.
Uric acid is produced by the body when it breaks down purines, compounds that occur naturally in the body but are also found in red meat, some seafood and shellfish. High blood levels of uric acid lead to the formation of urate crystals in the joints, causing intense pain and swelling.
Arthritis is estimated to affect more than 2 million people in the UK - with increasing cases due to dietary and lifestyle changes
Arthritis, a type of arthritis, typically affects the big toe because it is furthest from the heart - uric acid is more likely to turn into crystals in the extremities where body temperature is coolest.
Gout attacks are usually treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or with colchicine.
Blood secretion was used for many disorders at the forefront of medicine for thousands of years, both literally and metaphorically.
A vein would be cut across and the blood drained into a cup, with the site and the amount left to the GP. Hedgehogs were used for a less severe form of blood loss.
It was based on the 'humoral' theory, in which the human body consisted of four key humor or fluids - blood, black bile, yellow bile and mucus. Imbalances in these, which could be corrected by blood discharge, were thought to be responsible for many diseases.
By the end of the 19th century, new technologies had set aside bloodshed in Western medicine.
But now, new research from scientists from Sichuan Integrative Medicine Hospital, China, has found that the blood vessel was 37 percent more effective at treating arthritis than drugs like colchicine and NSAIDs - and patients' pain was also reduced by 13 percent.
Rheumatic attacks are usually treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or with colchicine
The controversial review, published in the current issue of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, examined data from 12 separate studies involving a total of 894 patients.
Blood was taken from the patients using syringes and different types of acupuncture needles - with varying amounts.
In some trials less than 10 ml of blood was taken, in others more. Bleeding in these trials was also reported to cause 36 percent fewer side effects.
Researchers found that it lowered uric acid levels by the same amount as standard medicine, but was more effective at reducing blood levels of an inflammatory compound, C-reactive protein (CRP) - found by previous research to stick to uric acid crystals, which triggers inflammation seen in arthritis.
"Blood donation is both effective and safe for the treatment of arthritis and can especially relieve acute severe pain and reduce CRP inflammatory levels in patients at a lower risk of causing side effects," the researchers say.
'Charging was better than western medicine in relieving symptoms of arthritis.'
However, Professor Philip Conaghan, director of the Leeds University Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine, said: "This new review summarized previous studies and many had design flaws."
Effective control of uric acid levels is key, he says, adding that current therapies for the treatment of acute arthritis are 'very effective' in most patients 'if used correctly'.
Meditation boosts immunity
Meditation is known to be good for mental health, but now researchers have shown how it also boosts the immune system.
Researchers from Florida University in the United States tested the blood of 106 people before and after an eight-day retreat with ten hours of meditation each day.
Using DNA analysis of the blood samples, they found that 220 genes related to the immune system were activated by practice, 68 of them were involved in beating the immune system.
Meditation is thought to alter the way cells behave, including the response to inflammation, reports the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Researchers will now see if shorter periods of meditation also help.
Hum - it can slow down viral infections. Researchers from MNR Dental Hospital, India, said in The Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice that research had found that low sum can increase nitric oxide levels in the sinuses, which can stop viruses from binding to the airways.
'Bionic' eye to tackle vision loss
Researchers have developed a bionic eye to help with vision loss caused by problems with the retina, the light-sensitive area on the back of the eye.
In people with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disorder, the cells in the retina gradually die out.
The device consists of a pair of glasses with a camera that sends signals wirelessly to an implant under the ear and on to the brain, bypassing damaged retinal cells. There is also a stimulator attached to the eye that tricks the remaining cells into receiving light.
After successful tests on sheep, the inventors of the device from Sydney University, Australia hope that it can soon be tested on humans.