The stomach implant that could combat obesity by reducing hunger pangs
New microchip could be alternative to weight-loss surgery, say researchers
Attaches to nerve that controls appetite and sends electrical signals to brain
These signals reduce the urge to eat and curb appetite, aiding weight loss
Trials on humans could start within three years
15:45 GMT, 3 April 2013
18:57 GMT, 3 April 2013
A microchip implanted in the stomach could be another way to tackle obesity, say scientists.
Hailed as an alternative to weight-loss surgery, the device is said to reduce the urge to eat.
Developed by researchers at Imperial College London, it is attached to the vagus nerve, which controls how much we eat by telling the brain the stomach is full.
Once attached, the microchip sends electrical
signals to the brain to reduce appetite.
The microchip can be attached to the vagus nerve, through which it sends electrical signals to the brain to reduce appetite
The vagus nerve is one of the largest nerve systems in the body. It extends from the the base of the brain and weaves through the body, carrying signals to and from the brain.
It regulates everything from breathing to heart rate and chemical levels in the digestive system.
The new electronic implant would attach to the nerve in the peritoneal cavity in the abdomen and would reduce appetite without causing any side effects, the researchers say.
'[The device] will be [about] control of appetite rather
than saying don't eat completely. So maybe instead of eating fast you'll
eat a lot slower, the microchip's creator, Professor Chris Toumazou, told the BBC.
Stephen Bloom, who leads the university’s diabetes, endocrinology and
metabolism department, added that the device could eventually be used as
an alternative to major surgery.
He said: ‘As far as the
brain is concerned, it will get the same signals from the intestinal
system as it normally gets after a meal, and these signals tell it don't
eat any more – the gut's full of food and you don't need to eat any
The chip (pictured) could be more effective than weight-loss surgery and could have fewer side-effects
He added that unlike a gastric band, the implant can reduce both consumption and hunger and could, therefore, be more effective.
The implant is soon to be tested on animals and the designers hope that tests on humans will start within three years.
The researchers at Imperial College London have also created a similar device that targets the vagus nerve as a way of reducing epileptic seizures.
News of this device comes shortly after scientists developed a similar piece of technology which targets the vagus nerve as a way of combatting asthma attacks.
In this case, the device can be held against the neck where it releases low-level electrical signals that stimulate the nerve.
It works by triggering the release of the hormone adrenaline which acts to relax the muscles in the walls of the airway, widening the tubes that connect to the lungs, allowing more air in and out of the body.