“New Vibrating Pill Designed by Engineers Could Aid Obesity Treatment”

When you have a big meal, your stomach tells your brain you’re full, so you know it’s time to stop eating. Even if your stomach is filled with liquid, it can still send these messages. That’s why people trying to eat less are often told to drink water before they eat.

MIT engineers have created a special capsule that vibrates in your stomach. These vibrations trick your body into feeling full by activating the sensors that sense when your stomach is stretched.

When animals took this pill before eating, it made them feel full and they ate 40% less food. If it’s safe for humans, researchers think this pill could be a simple way to help with obesity without surgery.

According to Shriya Srinivasan, an assistant professor at Harvard University, taking this pill before meals could help people wanting to lose weight or control their appetite. It might be a good option with fewer side effects compared to other treatments.

New Vibrating Pill
Pic Credit: Freepik

How we feel Fullness:-

When your stomach stretches, special cells sense this and signal the brain through the vagus nerve. This prompts the brain to produce insulin and hormones like C-peptide, Pyy, and GLP-1. These hormones team up to aid digestion, make you feel full, and signal that it’s time to stop eating. Meanwhile, the levels of ghrelin, a hormone that makes you hungry, decrease.

When studying at MIT, Srinivasan got intrigued by the idea of using vibrations to mimic stretching in stomach mechanoreceptors. Earlier research showed that vibrations on muscles can make them feel stretched more than they are.

whether vibrations could fool the stomach’s stretch sensors into perceiving a larger stomach size. This idea might alter hormone responses and eating behaviors,” suggested Srinivasan.

During her time as a postdoctoral researcher at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Srinivasan teamed up with Traverso’s lab, known for inventing new ways to deliver drugs and devices by mouth. Together, they created a small capsule, similar to a multivitamin in size, equipped with a vibrating part. Once this pill, powered by a tiny silver oxide battery, reaches the stomach, its gelatinous coating dissolves in the acidic fluids, triggering the electronic circuit that starts the vibration.

In experiments with animals, researchers showed that when the pill vibrates, it triggers mechanoreceptors. These receptors then send signals to the brain through the vagus nerve. While the device vibrated, they checked hormone levels and found they were similar to those seen after a meal, even when the animals hadn’t eaten anything.

researchers found that when they turned on the vibrating pill about 20 minutes before feeding the animals, the animals ate 40 percent less food on average compared to when the pill wasn’t on. Also, the animals gained weight more slowly when they received the vibrating pill treatment.”

The pill now vibrates for around 30 minutes once it’s in the stomach. Researchers aim to make it stay in the stomach longer, possibly allowing wireless control for on/off functions. In the tests with animals, these pills passed through the digestive system within four or five days.

The research also revealed that the animals didn’t display any problems like blockages, tears, or other harmful effects while the pill was in their digestive system.

New Approach:-

This pill could be a new way to tackle obesity, offering an alternative to current methods. Diets and exercises don’t always work, and some medical options like surgery or certain balloons aren’t widely used due to safety concerns.

Medications that help with weight loss often need injections and can be expensive, making them hard to get for many people. Srinivasan suggests that these MIT capsules might be made at a lower cost, making them accessible to more individuals who can’t afford pricier treatments.

“For many people, the best obesity treatments are costly. this device, when made on a larger scale, could be more affordable,” she explains. and she is  excited about its potential impact in global healthcare where expensive options aren’t available.”

The researchers aim to ramp up capsule production for human trials. These trials will be vital to ensure the device’s safety, determine the best time to take it before meals, and how often it should be used.

Also involved in the paper are Amro Alshareef, Alexandria Hwang, Ceara Byrne, Johannes Kuosmann, Keiko Ishida, Joshua Jenkins, Sabrina Liu, Wiam Abdalla Mohammed Madani, Alison Hayward, and Niora Fabian.

The research received funding from the National Institutes of Health, Novo Nordisk, the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, a Schmidt Science Fellowship, and the National Science Foundation.

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