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Obesity as the result of too much body fat can lead to serious health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The easiest way to treat obesity is to adopt a healthy diet and active lifestyle to take and keep weight off, which is much easier said than done.
In the face of a growing population of obese patients, researchers and engineers have begun developing anti-obesity technologies to lend a helping hand to patients who are wary of surgical procedures like gastric bypass or lap-banding.
Imperial College London
Professors Stephen Bloom and Chris Toumazou of Imperial College London recently received a $9.1 million grant from the European Research Council to develop an implant to detect when the stomach is full and to tell the brain to stop eating.
The i2MOVE implant, now in development, attaches to the vagus nerve, which connects the body’s organs to the brain and conveys vital information. The implant will detect chemical and electrical impulses from the gut in order to signal to the brain that you should stop eating.
One treatment for obesity, when all other methods have failed, is gastric bypass, which works by physically limiting the size of your stomach so that you feel fuller faster and so consume fewer calories.
While all surgeries carry some risk of complications, gastric bypass can potentially cause injury to the stomach and other internal organs. Food may also leak out of the digestive system after surgery, which can lead to infection.
As an alternative, ValenTx, a company based in California, has developed an endoluminal bypass, which involves a replaceable, removable implant and does not require surgery.
IntraPace, a European company, has developed a system called Abiliti, involving a series of implantable sensors that track when a person eats, drinks, or exercises. When Abiliti detects that you've consumed food, it sends electrical impulses to the stomach to simulate feelings of fullness and help decrease the desire to eat more.
The compulsion to continue eating, or to eat more frequently than the body can burn calories, is one contributor to weight gain. BAROnova, another California-based company, has developed the TransPyloric Shuttle, which slows the natural emptying of the stomach to prolong feelings of fullness.
BAROnova recently finished a round of financing to further the development of the shuttle.
GI Dynamics’ EndoBarrier Therapy is a temporary barrier that is inserted through the mouth and ends up just below the stomach. It prevents food from coming into contact with the digestive tract. Because the food is funneled through the intestine without being digested, the shuttle reduces the absorption of calories.
Currently, the device is undergoing a clinical trial in the United States.
EndoSphere’s SatiSphere is an endoscopically delivered device that takes the shape of the small intestine and helps regulate feelings of fullness, fighting the compulsion to eat more than you need. Clinical trials will begin soon in the U.S. and Germany.