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Implantable Device Can Help People Lose Weight By Supressing Hunger

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This implantable, battery-operated device tricks the brain into thinking that the stomach is full by producing electrical stimulations corresponding to real-time stomach movement. 

For now, Bariatric procedures are the most common surgical technique to get rid of obesity. However, these procedures can be invasive and come with many side effects. Gastric bypass is another form of surgical weight loss technique that permanently alters the stomach's capacity, making the change irreversible. However, the Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) is the latest technology that offers similar benefits but without life-long implications. 

Promising Results And Sustainable Weight Loss

Even though it has not been tested on humans, the animal testing has shown some promising results. 

According to the study published on Dec. 17 in the journal Nature Communications, findings reveal that the rats were able to lose as much as 40 percent of their body weight within the first 18 days of activity. For the remaining days of the experiment, the rats were able to maintain an average weight loss

Before conducting human trials, the researchers want to fine tune the implantable device by adding some kind of on/off switch and experiment on larger animals.  

"Our expectation is that the device will be more effective and convenient to use than other technologies," says Xudong Wang, a UW-Madison professor of materials science and engineering.

The team is highly optimistic about this device and its ability to prevent obesity in people. 

Maestro vs. Latest VNS Device 

The vagus nerve is a channel of communication between the brain and body. A discovery led the scientists toward a conduit through which the stomach signals the brain that it is full. The subsequent experiments revealed that artificial stimulation of vagus nerve can suppress the feeling of hunger and help reduce the appetite. 

A device called "Maestro" was the first-of-its-kind FDA approved obesity-controlling device launched in 2015 that interrupted the vagus nerve and helped the person suppress their craving. However, this device was cumbersome and required frequent battery recharge to operate seamlessly. 

The latest VNS device is an upgrade from "Maestro" with its tiny size and battery-free application. VNS generates its stimulations from the stomach's undulating movement. 

"The pulses correlate with the stomach's motions, enhancing a natural response to help control food intake," says Wang. "It's automatically responsive to our body function, producing stimulation when needed. Our body knows best."

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