Implantable pacemaker future of weight loss

weightlossDIETS and exercise may not be the future for weight loss.

A pacemaker-like device, which blocks hunger nerves, has been successfully trialled at Adelaide's Flinders Medical Centre, with stunning results.

The first person to be implanted with the device lost 20 kilograms in a year without changing her dietary habits or exercise regime.

The Adelaide medical centre was one of three in the world to trial the new device, developed by EnteroMedics Inc.

Flinders' Professor of Digestive Surgery James Toouli (Toouli) said the instrument was placed under the abdominal skin and powered by parts worn outside the body.

The device then intermittently blocked hunger signals carried by vagus nerves - two large cables which go from the brain to the gastrointestinal tract.

"The vagus are the most important nerve that go to the digestive system," Prof Toouli said today.

"These nerves control the movement of the stomach and they control some of the secretions used for digestion, and by blocking these intermittently, what it does is it slows downs the aching of the stomach so consequently people don't feel as hungry."

The theory of blocking the hunger nerves came from clinical observations from past surgery where patients had the nerves divided.

"It was noted in those people if they were overweight, they actually would lose weight," Prof Toouli said.

"Instead of dividing the nerves we now block them with this pacemaker-type device.

"And the reason why this is better than dividing them ... is the body always recuperates if we do something permanent and those nerves do regenerate in time.

"So if you can just block them intermittently but not destroy them, then the effects are most likely to last for a long time."

Flinders trialled the device on 10 people including 32-year-old Sarah Polkinghorne, who lost 20kg in a year after having her vagus nerves blocked for a total of 12 hours a day.

The group was told not to alter their exercise or dietary habits.

A smaller improved version of the device is now being trialled.

"The idea is that this will be implantable, the whole thing," Prof Toouli said.

"At the moment what we call the neuroregulator is implantable but the person has to actually apply an external device in order to send messages to the nerves.

"Ultimately what we are working towards is a fully implantable thing just like a pacemaker so it would be put in and left there for a number of years with a rechargeable battery.

"These early trials are geared towards trying to work out the dosage and how often this thing needs to be turned on so that it will optimise the fully implantable device, which is still very much in a prototype stage."

Prof Toouli hoped the device would be widely available in the future.

"That is certainly our view," he said.

"As always with these things, cost comes into it and these things have not been worked out yet, but it's really very promising."

source The Australian News