The small implantable device seen in the hands of the researcher below is made to fight hunger pangs and help people lose weight. Obesity is an increasing problem around the world with over 700 million adults and children globally considered obese. Obesity can lead to all manner of health problems, and scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have created an implant that could help the obese lose weight.
The device is small and has no battery to operate. So far it has only been tested with animals in the lab. The researchers say that in those rat tests, the animals were able to shed almost 40% of their body weight. The implant is small at less than 1cm across; it’s about a third the size of a penny.
The implantation is said to be minimally invasive and once implanted the device generates gentle electric pulses from the natural churning motion of the stomach and delivers those electrical pulses to the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the link between the brain and the stomach.
By gently stimulating the nerve, the brain is fooled into thinking that the stomach is full despite the person only having had a few bites of food. The researchers state that the pulses correlate with the natural movements of the stomach to help the patient control food intake.
Another key to this new device is that the effects of the implant are reversible, unlike the common gastric bypass surgery used for weight loss. The new sensor is also very different from the existing device that stimulates the vagus nerve called Maestro. The team says that Maestro requires a complex control unit and bulky rechargeable batteries. The new implant needs no control unit or battery since the movement of the stomach powers the internal power generators. The team hopes to move onto human trials in the future.