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New device works as alternative to gastric bypass surgery

Posted at 4:26 PM, Jan 19, 2021

A small device could one day be an alternative to gastric bypass surgery for people who are dangerously overweight.

Researchers at Texas A&M University created the device that is implanted into the patient's stomach. It makes you feel full by using light to stimulate the nerve endings that control hunger.

The device is controlled by a remote source, much like a pacemaker.

The lead researcher behind the device says it could be a safer option than a more invasive surgery.

“Gastric bypass surgery is the most popular approach to treat obesity. The thing is, it’s not a cost-effective solution, plus it involves side effects,” said Sung Il Park at Texas A&M University.

He says his team also gained a better understanding of how our body feels hungry.

Conventional wisdom is when the stomach expands, signals are sent to the brain that a person is full.

Park's team found it is possible to stimulate those nerves to make the body feel full, even when the stomach is empty.

“To be able to activate and manipulate individual neurons, we have to express light sensitive protein to the targeted region. So, such related research is ongoing,” said Park.

He says so far, they haven't found any technical problems with the device.

He says it could be a few years before it might be available for widespread use because they still have more research to do. And then it must go through the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process.