In this illustration, an implant (blue and gray) creates a feeling of satiety by pressing on the stomach and, when activated by a laser (black), killing cells that produce the hunger hormone. Credit: Adapted from ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces 2022, DOI: 10.1021 / acsami.2c00532
When dieting and exercise are not enough, weight loss surgery can be an effective obesity treatment. But people who do not want surgery have other options, including inserting an appetite suppressant balloon or other implant into the abdomen. Now, researchers at ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces report that they have extended this procedure in experimental animals by coating an implant with a laser-activated dye that kills ghrelin-producing cells, the “starvation hormone.”
Implants can be inserted into the stomach through the mouth after local anesthesia. In 2019, Hwoon-Yong Jung, Jung-Hoon Park and colleagues designed a new type of implant. The “intragastric satiety-inducing device” (ISD) consists of a stent – which attaches itself to the lower esophagus – attached to a disc that rests in the opening to the stomach. The counter has a hole in the middle so the food can get through. Tests on pigs showed that ISD lowered food intake and weight gain by increasing the feeling of satiety and reducing the level of ghrelin, which is produced by cells near the top of the stomach. But the device caused complications, including acid regurgitation and migration into the stomach. In their latest project, Jung, Park, Kun Na, and colleagues wanted to find out if they could suppress ghrelin even more by coating ISD’s disk with a compound that could kill some of the ghrelin-producing cells with a shot of laser light. The implant could then be removed to avoid the side effects associated with the original design.
In this preliminary study, the team coated ISDs with methylene blue – an FDA-approved drug – and then placed them in the stomachs of young pigs. When the coating was exposed to laser light, the coating released singlet oxygen, an energetic form of oxygen that killed nearby ghrelin-producing cells in the pigs’ stomachs and then quickly disappeared. After one week, the treatment reduced ghrelin levels and weight gain by half compared to an untreated pig, although these differences diminished in the following weeks unless the light treatment was repeated. With further development, the simple procedure could become a new type of minimally invasive treatment to help obese patients lose weight, the researchers say.
Higher fasting ‘starvation hormone’ levels from healthy eating can improve heart health and metabolism More information: Photodynamic methylene blue-embedded intragastric satiety-inducing device for the treatment of obesity, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (2022). DOI: 10.1021 / acsami.2c00532
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