While there is a common misconception that those who struggle with obesity are simply careless with their diets or aren’t working out enough, the truth is that there are a number of complex factors that contribute to weight issues.
Sometimes, certain operations or devices can help people lose weight, but often these methods are highly invasive. That’s why scientists are working on a new implant that is administered non-surgically and can improve the weight-loss process through zapping hunger-inducing cells found in the stomach.
Ghrelin is a hormone our bodies produce to stimulate appetite, increase food intake, and promote fat storage. Smaller quantities of ghrelin are released by the brain, pancreas, and small intestine, however, most of it is produced and secreted by cells in the stomach.
Researchers at the Catholic University of Korea figured out how to reduce the activity of these ghrelin cells by modifying an existing prototype implant known as the “intragastric satiety-inducing device” (ISD). This device is made up of a stent that is non-surgically placed in the lower esophagus, connected to a disc with a small opening (to allow food to pass) that rests in the opening to the stomach.
To improve the ISD, the researchers coated the underside of the disc with an FDA-approved drug called methylene blue. Then, a fiber optic laser passes down through the opening in the disc, curving back around to the point at its underside.
The laser shines on the methylene blue, resulting in the production of an energized form of oxygen called singlet oxygen. The singlet oxygen kills nearby ghrelin-producing cells before disappearing from the stomach completely. Once the job is done, the implant can be pulled out of the body.
So far, this implant has been tested on young pigs. The pigs that were treated experienced a reduction in ghrelin levels and body weight gain by one-half, in comparison to a control group of untreated pigs. Over the next few weeks, the killed-off ghrelin-producing cells become naturally replaced, which means that for the hunger-suppressing effect to last, the treatment would have to be periodically repeated.
The scientists hope that, with more research, this technology can be tested on humans and will someday make the lives of those struggling to lose weight much easier.
Source study: ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces—Photodynamic methylene blue-embedded intragastric satiety-inducing device to treat obesity