American scientists have developed a vibrating capsule, which, they argue, may prove to be an alternative to current methods of treating obesity. Animal studies have shown that taking a capsule before a meal causes them to consume less food. Now scientists want to move to the stage of clinical trials on humans. “Someone who wants to lose weight or control their appetite could take a capsule before each meal,” says Dr. Shriya Srinivasan, the study’s lead author.
The feeling of needing to eat is controlled by the hunger and satiety centers in the hypothalamus. This is the part of the brain where signals about the need to eat reach. Disturbances in the mechanisms responsible for regulating appetite lead, among others, to: to obesity – a person (or an animal) overeats because the satiety center does not receive information that hunger has been satisfied.
Using this knowledge, scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in USA have developed a capsule that vibrates in the stomach. The vibrations activate the same receptors that respond when the stomach is full. In this way, the brain receives false information that hunger has been satisfied and stops sending signals to continue eating. Researchers tested the device on pigs.
– Someone who wants to lose weight or control their appetite could take a capsule before each meal. This option could minimize the side effects we see with available drug treatments, says Dr. Shriya Srinivasan, a bioengineering specialist at Harvard University and lead author of the study, the results of which were published in Science Advances at the end of December. The co-author of the study is prof. Giovanni Traverso, an expert in mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a gastroenterologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
Vibrating capsule in the stomach – how it works
When the stomach is full, specialized cells called mechanoreceptors sense that its walls are stretched and send signals to the brain via the vagus nerve. The brain stimulates the production of insulin and other hormones such as GLP-1. These substances make us feel full and stop eating, and they also help with digestion. At the same time, the level of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger, decreases in the body.
Shriya Srinivasan began working on artificial stimulation of mechanoreceptors in the stomach during her graduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). – I wondered if we could artificially activate the receptors in the stomach when its walls are not dilated. All this to create an illusory sense of satiety, which could modulate hormone secretion and change eating patterns, explains Dr. Srinivasan.
The effect of the capsule on appetite stimulation
Researchers designed a mechanism that includes a vibrating element. When the battery-powered silver oxide capsule reaches the stomach, stomach acids dissolve the gelatin coating around the device. Then the vibration motor starts. In a study on pigs, scientists showed that when the capsule is vibrated, it activates mechanoreceptors, which send signals to the brain by stimulating the vagus nerve. Researchers tracked hormone levels in the blood while the device vibrated. They found that the amount of hormones was the same as after a meal, even when the animals were fasting.
The researchers also tested the effect of this stimulation on the animals’ appetite. They found that when the capsule was activated in the stomach for about 20 minutes before the pigs were given food, they ate an average of 40 percent less. less food than when they did not swallow the device. The animals also gained weight more slowly when they were regularly given vibrating capsules.
The capsule was designed to vibrate for about 30 minutes after reaching the stomach, but the researchers want to create a version of the device that could remain in the stomach for a longer period of time and be turned on and off wirelessly. In animal studies, the tablets left the digestive tract after four or five days. There were no side effects of this method of stimulating stomach receptors.
Obesity treatment – methods
The authors of the study believe that the vibrating capsule may be an alternative to current methods of treating obesity – drugs, gastric balloons or surgical reduction of the stomach. The researchers also point to the low costs of therapy using their invention, which could allow its widespread use in the future.
Now scientists want to move to the stage of clinical trials on humans. They need to check not only the effect of the mechanism on appetite regulation. It is not known what sensations the vibrating device will cause in patients’ stomachs, or whether they will want to swallow large capsules before each meal.
According to the World Health Organization, obesity affects over 20 percent of people. people in the world, and over 4.5 million people die prematurely because of it. Almost 60% of people struggle with overweight leading to obesity. About 10 percent of Poles suffer from obesity. children in our country.
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