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Pilot study: Migraine can be treated without medicine

Some migraine patients can cut down on medication or stop using it completely by using a newly developed inhaler which changes the composition of the air we breathe. This is the result of a pilot study conducted at Aarhus University, Denmark

2018.10.04 | Ida Skytte Asmussen

Included with the inhalator is an app and a control unit. Photo: Rehaler.dk

By slightly changing the body's own molecules using a small inhaler, certain migraine patients can either cut down on medication or do without it completely. This is shown by a pilot study which has been published in the scientific journal Cephalalgia.

Patients who suffer from migraine with aura, which is where they experience either sensory or visual disturbances before the painful headaches begin, have been examined in the study. Eleven patients participated in the pilot study, which will now be followed by a large clinical trial.

One of the authors is MSc in Engineering and PhD Troels Johansen, who carried out the study as part of his PhD at the Department of Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University and the Headache Clinic at Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark.

He explains that migraines occur as part of a chain reaction during which the veins in the brain contract and the blood cannot therefore supply the brain with sufficient oxygen.

"We utilise CO2 and oxygen, which are the body's natural molecules for mobilising its own defence against migraine attacks. The inhaler expands the blood vessels that supply the brain with oxygen by up to seventy per cent and thereby stops the destructive chain reaction," says Troels Johansen, adding that the effect of the treatment starts after a few seconds. 

Would like to reach all migraine patients

The pilot study was carried out from 2016-2017 with eleven patients with migraine with aura. One of the results was that the effect of the pain relief increased significantly with each use of the inhaler. Forty-five per cent experienced an effect the first time, and that number rose to 78 per cent the second time. 

"The study shows some very significant physiological effects in the body," says Troels Johansen, who currently teaches at the Aarhus University School of Engineering. Together with a team of employees, he has put the inhaler into production through the company BalancAir.

Since the pilot project is limited to migraine with aura and only comprised eleven patients, Troels Johansen is now planning to conduct a large clinical trial that will also include migraine without aura and chronic migraine.

The research results – more information

Type of study: Randomised, controlled, double-blind study.

Partners: Professor Flemming W. Bach from the Department of Clinical Medicine, Aarhus University, and MD Cecilia H. Fuglsang, who was the Headache Clinic's experimental assistant during the pilot study. 

External funding: The migraine inhaler is developed by the Danish company BalancAir, which was founded in 2009 by Troels Johansen and is today run by a team of nine employees. The company has launched the inhaler on the Danish market under the name Rehaler. BalancAir has financed the pilot study.

The scientific article can be found here:



Troels Johansen (http://pure.au.dk/portal/da/persons/id(19932ade-c1d9-4cfd-a1ec-4608886de7d6).html
School of Engineering, Aarhus University
Mobile: (+45) 4097 7313
Email: troels.johansen@ase.au.dk


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