I again revert to obesity treatment methods for this week’s post. From crash diets to stomach-stapling and jaw-wiring, it seems there’s nothing people won’t try to lose weight. Soon you may even be able to have an implant, one that works by blocking signals between the stomach and the brain.
The device, called the Maestro Rechargeable System, has just been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for people who are both severely obese – defined as those with a body mass index over 35 – and have a weight-related condition such as diabetes. Once fitted, it is recharged and adjusted wirelessly using an external controller. It is due to go on sale in the US later this year, with sales in other countries to follow. The premise behind the treatment is that it is a less invasive option that gastric bypass surgery. The device doesn’t seem to be the long-sought cure for obesity, though, as it leads to only modest weight loss – about 9 per cent.
The signals blocked by the device travel along the vagus nerve, an important line of communication between the brain and several major organs. The electrodes wrap around the branch of the nerve connecting to the stomach. This contains both the neurons going from the stomach to the brain and those going back down to the stomach.
According to EnteroMedics, blocking this signalling pathway reduces stomach expansion and contraction, as well as the secretion of digestive enzymes. The net result is that people feel less hungry and their calorie intake is reduced. This may fill the treatment gap between diet and exercise, and conventional weight loss surgeries.