Obesity in recent years has assumed epidemic proportions in numerous countries and its worldwide prevalence is rising at an alarming rate. It is a major risk factor for a range of chronic diseases. Nutritional interventions and surgeries to get the extra flab off your body may be time-taking, complicated, or plainly cost intensive. Implantable devices may shine new light on ways to counter this rising pandemic, according to a recent study. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found a promising way of treating obesity by regulating food intake in affected individuals. They have developed a battery-free vagus nerve stimulation device or system that can be easily implanted with minimal procedure, and responds to stomach movement. They tested the device on rat models and found the strategy to be successful in helping the rats shed around 38% of the body weight in only 100 days.
The findings of the study were published in Nature Communications on December 17, 2018.
Nerve Stimulation Device is Self-powered
The implanted self-powered vagus nerve stimulation device responds to peristalsis of stomach and generates electric signals. The self-responsive system activates the vagus nerve—vagal afferent nerves to be precise—to trigger the signals of satiety after the intake of small portions of food. This then leads to reduced food intake resulting in weight loss. According to one of the authors of the study, electric pulse correlates vagus nerve stimulation by targeting natural movements of stomach and is highly effective in achieving its end.
Device an Advancement over Earlier FDA-approved Appetite-curbing Implant
The concept is not one-of-its-kind in therapeutic technology for reducing food intake through vagus nerve stimulation, but the device is considered way better than the earlier version. The appetite curbing device called ‘Maestro’ was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2015. However, the existing unit is not user-friendly and is operated by batteries that need to be frequently recharged. This makes its maintenance hassle-ridden. On the other hand, the new device developed relies on the movement of the stomach wall for its operation.
The researchers soon expected to test the efficacy of device on bigger animals, and eventually in humans.