A new fish therapy that promises to ease chronic pain in humans and other animals will be tested in the US next month.
The Theranos Therapeutics test is aimed at treating a group of patients suffering from severe joint pain, spinal disc degeneration, or both.
Its success would be a boon for a field known for its failures.
While the fish therapy, which is in its early stages of clinical trials, is only about $1,000 (£1,050) per treatment, Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes says its already been tested in pigs, dogs, and rabbits.
“We’re doing some preliminary clinical trials and we’re in the process of doing an extended clinical trial and I can’t talk about those yet,” she said.
“But there is evidence to suggest that this is something that could be useful.”
Theranos is a biotechnology company based in San Francisco, with offices in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Silicon Valley.
It has raised $5.4bn (£3.7bn) in venture capital from investors including Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoias founder Reid Hoffman and others.
The company is now in the midst of developing an application that can be used to treat arthritis in humans, a major painkiller for the elderly, and a potential alternative to opioid painkillers.
But critics say the new test, if it succeeds, would be just the beginning of a clinical trial that could take several years to complete.
The drug’s success would also mean that other companies could look to the Theranos technology for similar pain relief.
But the idea of using fish to treat pain has gained popularity recently.
In February, a group called Theranos Fish Therapy raised $2.5m (£1.6m) from the likes of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Google Ventures co-founders Reid Hoffman, Max Levchin, and Larry Page.
“The biggest thing is it has the potential to be a paradigm shift in medicine,” said Mark Hurd, an osteopath at Harvard Medical School.
“And there’s a lot of potential there.”‘
I’m not an expert’It is not clear whether the fish can cure the problem in any patients.
But it has been tested on animals and it has shown promise.
“There are some patients who don’t have pain, and we’ve been looking at how they respond to fish,” said Dr Hurd.
“I’m a bit of an expert on fish therapy so I can say if there’s one fish in the world that you can use to treat an illness in people, it’s the Therapeutic Nautilus.”
The Therapeutex Fish Therapy will be made available to patients with arthritis, spinal pain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, spinal cord injuries, or other conditions.
It is intended for a range of conditions including pain, inflammation, muscle spasms, heartburn, muscle weakness, inflammation of the joints, or inflammation of other organs.
The test uses fish oil, a substance found in oily fish such as mackerel and tuna.
A large fish called the Theracini is injected into the patient, and the fish is allowed to float around for several hours.
The fish is then dried and injected into a vein that will carry it to the patient’s heart.
It’s then left to recover for several days.
The patient is then injected with a placebo fish oil that has no direct effect on the immune system.
“This is a treatment that could have a significant impact on the patients’ pain, especially chronic pain,” Dr Huddl said.
But while the treatment may be promising, the results have been mixed.
“It’s a really big leap forward in the field of pain,” he said.