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This implant will help you fight obesity without dieting

Vishal Kawadkar

We have seen a lot of concepts for smart sensors that are meant to keep tabs on users' health showing information on a paired smartphone. But, engineers are the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a device that will observe the internal processes of the body. The device encourages obese individuals to lose weight by sticking on the outside of their stomach and cutting down the hunger of the user.

"We developed an implantable device to stimulate [the] vagus nerve with a purpose to reduce food intake," Xudong Wang, a professor of nano-electric systems, told Digital Trends. "It is a smart and self-responsive device without any electronics and power supply. It produces electric pulses in response to stomach movements, and transmits them through the vagus nerve to the brain as an artificial fullness signal [able to] prevent further eating."

The Food and Drug Administration has previously approved a similar implant which was made by ReShape Lifesciences. The implant tweaks the electrical jolts to change the way the vagus nerve and the brain communicate.

This is similar to what the new device is aiming to do, but the only setback here is that the device relies on batteries and needs to be charged timely. The UWM, however, generates up to 0.5 volts simply based on the natural movements of the stomach. This much power is enough to make the device work.

The new implant is yet to be tested on a human being. However, the team of researchers has tested the implant on rats. As a result, the rats with the device were 38 percent less in weight compared to the ones without the implant.

The researchers believe that the project could be helpful in fighting the US obesity epidemic, which has affected millions of US citizens.

"We want to test it on big animals, such as pig, that has more similar weight to humans, and eventually move to human trials," Wang said.

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