There are many benefits for having gastric bypass surgery, but researchers believe that they've converted all of the benefits of the procedure into a single pill.
What Is Gastric Bypass Surgery?
In gastric bypass surgery, doctors separate the stomach, shrink it, and rearrange the small intestine. The procedure is typically reserved for obese patients suffering from type 2 diabetes. Benefits of gastric bypass surgery include rapid weight loss, lower blood pressure, and other improved obesity-related conditions.
Despite the positives, there are many risks that come along with the procedure. Nearly 80 percent of patients experience early remission of their type 2 diabetes. There are also other adverse health effects, such as chronic vitamin deficiencies.
Only a small percentage of eligible patients actually opt for the surgery. There are surgical requirements such as having a body mass index of 40 or greater. Some health insurance plans might not fully cover it. The fear of going under the knife is also a big factor.
Researchers Testing Out The Pill On Rats
Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Harvard Medical School believe that they have developed an alternative for gastric bypass surgery. The alternative is a pill that coats the small intestine as a barrier from nutrients.
After several years of researching and screening different pills, the researchers settled on sucralfate, a stomach ulcer drug that binds areas of the gastric lining. The researchers tested the pill on rats. At first, the sucralfate could not coat the healthy gastric areas during a higher pH level. After making some changes to the chemicals in the pills, it began to work again.
They dried their pasty substance into a pill shape for the experiment. In the test rats, the pill successfully stopped blood sugar levels from spiking after food consumption. That meant that the pill could be used for type 2 diabetes patients.
The findings were published in a study on June 11 the journal Nature Materials.
"We showed that LuCI forms a transient physical barrier on the luminal surface of the gastrointestinal tract and, in essence, emulates a critical part of bariatric surgery in a non-invasive way," the authors wrote in the study.
What Can Patients Expect With The Pill?
Researchers envision a pill that can be consumed before meals. It will coat the stomach because of its adhesion properties. Food will pass through the stomach without being fully absorbed, which would prevent weight gain. In a couple of hours, the coating would dissolve.
"What we've developed here is essentially 'surgery in a pill,'" said study co-author Yuhan Lee, Ph.D.
Human testing of the pill will commence within two years. It could be available to the public in five years if the tests go well.