According to research, it has been found that diet and exercise alone cannot help combat obesity, because, for an obese patient, there have been some biological adaptations undertaken by the body, which engaging in behavioral adaptations like exercise and dieting cannot correct. This is because indulging in these behaviors makes the body lose calories, and when this happens, it causes the activation of some biological activities, such as the production of ghrelin – the hunger hormone – which increases the appetite of the patient, resulting in more intake of calories, consequently leading to increased weight gain. Therefore, these procedures are not effective in correcting obesity.
On discovering this, scientists began to look for ways to obstruct these biological activities, and inventions such as anti-obesity drugs, surgery for weight loss, and intra-abdominal vagal nerve blocks were made to tackle them. However, these inventions only worked to combat obesity by a four to ten percent reduction in body weight. This called for further research, and a new procedure that involves implanting a balloon into the stomach to reduce appetite was innovated. This approach seems to be better as it focuses on appetite reduction (biological activity), rather than the behavioral counterpart.
Is this procedure effective?
Since this procedure targets appetite, scientists believe it would be more effective than the previous ones. They further improved the procedure by rubbing the outer layer of the implant with dye which can kill the hunger hormone cells when laser light reacts with it. Recently, a new kind of implant device for this purpose has been developed by a team of scientists including Hwoon-Yong Jung, Jung-Hoon Park, Kun Na, and their colleagues.
The new implant device: the way forward or not?
This new implant device, which they called the intragastric satiety-inducing device, is made up of a stent attached to a center-hollowed disk (the hole allows for the passage of food) into the stomach.
The team tested the device on pigs and found out that it worked well to inhibit the production of ghrelin, thereby, reducing appetite and increasing weight loss in them. However, they noticed some side effects: they noticed that the device caused the acidic stomach contents to flow back into the esophagus – acid reflux.
On noting this, they tried to find out a better way to improve the device to further initiate the death of ghrelin-producing cells, whilst lessening the side effects. They did this by rubbing the outer layer of the disk with a compound – methylene blue – that is very reactive with laser light shots, in a way that results in the death of the hunger hormone cells. To reduce the side effects, they opted for the removal of the device after this (death of ghrelin-ghrelin-producing cells) has been achieved.
The procedure proved effective in reducing weight gain in the pigs by half in contrast to pigs that did not receive the treatment. The current challenge with this treatment procedure is that the pigs would have to receive the implant after a few weeks to prevent weight gain in them. The team is currently working to improve the procedure to be safe for use on humans.
With the findings from this study, doctors may finally be able to control and effectively treat people who are obese.
This study provides a promising future for obese patients, as scientists have not stopped working to discover newer and more effective approaches to correct obesity.