heartburn stomach acheAs reported by the AP, doctors have used a novel device to successfully treat chronic heartburn.

Whereas heartburn, or acid reflux, is familiar to many as an occasional, fleeting pain, in some individuals it occurs chronically and can cause real harm. Such chronic heartburn is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and its more serious effects include difficulty sleeping, ulcers, difficulty swallowing, and increased risk of esophageal cancer.

GERD is caused by a failure of the pyloric sphincter, a doughnut-shaped muscle found at the entrance to the stomach. Normally, this muscle holds the entrance closed, keeping stomach acids where they belong, in the stomach. As one swallows, it relaxes momentarily, allowing food into the stomach, then closes the entrance again. When it fails to close the entrance completely, stomach acids may rise into the esophagus, causing heartburn or GERD.

The device, called LINX, is made by Torax Medical Inc. and is ingenius in its simplicity. It consists of a set of magnets arranged on a flexible ring, much like a child’s bracelet made of beads on an elastic string. It is surgically implanted around a defective pyloric sphincter. As food passes, the magnets are forced apart, the ring expands, and the food enters the stomach. Then the magnets pull the ring smaller, closing the entrance to the stomach and preventing acid reflux, just as the muscles of a functioning pyloric sphincter would do normally.

This is yet another example of how reason, science, and human ingenuity can transform raw materials—in this case metal dug from the earth—into a life-improving or even life-saving invention. Here’s to people of reason.

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