What’s the Latest Development?
A team of British researchers will soon begin testing an electrical device which, by attaching to a nerve that controls the body’s appetite for food, could provide an alternative to weight-loss surgery. “It involves an ‘intelligent implantable modulator’, just a few millimetres across, which is attached using cuff electrodes to the vagus nerve within the peritoneal cavity found in the abdomen. The chip and cuffs are designed to read and process electrical and chemical signatures of appetite within the nerve. The chip can then act upon these readings and send electrical signals to the brain reducing or stopping the urge to eat.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Using electrical impulses to regulate how the vagus nerve functions might have applications beyond weight loss, say biologists. Besides controlling appetite, the nerve controls the way we breathe, our heart rate, the secretion of acids in the digestive system and the contraction of the gut. “It also feeds back information to the brain on how various body systems are operating.” Dr Tony Goldstone, an expert on obesity at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre said: “We need simpler cheaper more regularly available procedures, and unlike gastric bypass and some other operations for obesity, it is reversible—that is another advantage.”
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