A Self-Inflating Weight Loss Pill You Can Swallow

Singapore scientists have invented an ingestible self-inflating capsule to help tackle obesity.

AsianScientist (May 13, 2019) – Researchers in Singapore have developed a self-inflating weight management capsule that could be used to treat obese patients.

Today, moderately obese patients and those who are too ill to undergo surgery can opt for the intragastric balloon, an established weight loss intervention that has to be inserted into the stomach via endoscopy under sedation. It is removed six months later via the same procedure. Being invasive, the treatment is not suitable for all patients.

It is also common for patients who opt for the intragastric balloon to experience nausea and vomiting, with up to 20 percent requiring early balloon removal due to intolerance. The stomach may also get used to the prolonged placement of the balloon within, causing the balloon to be less effective for weight loss.

In the present study, researchers led by Professor Louis Phee at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, in collaboration with the National University Health System, Singapore, have invented the EndoPil—a prototype capsule containing a balloon that can be self-inflated with a handheld magnet once it is in the stomach, thus inducing a sense of fullness.

Measuring around 3cm by 1cm, the EndoPil has an outer gelatin casing that contains a deflated balloon, an inflation valve with a magnet attached, as well as a harmless acid and a salt stored in separate compartments in an inner capsule. External application of a magnetic force to the ingested pill triggers a reaction between the acid and salt stored in the capsule, which produces carbon dioxide to fill up the balloon.

The EndoPil’s viability was first tested in a preclinical study, in which a larger prototype was inserted into a pig. The findings showed that the pig with the inflated capsule in its stomach lost 1.5kg a week later, while a control group of five pigs gained weight.

Last year, the team tested their capsule on a healthy patient volunteer in Singapore, with the capsule inserted into her stomach through an endoscope. The balloon was successfully inflated within her stomach, with no discomfort or injury from the inflation.

The latest findings will be presented in May 2019 as a plenary lecture during the Digestive Disease Week 2019 in San Diego, US, the world’s largest gathering of physicians and researchers in the fields of gastroenterology, hepatology, endoscopy and gastrointestinal surgery.

“EndoPil’s main advantage is its simplicity of administration. All you would need is a glass of water to help it go down and a magnet to activate it. We are now trying to reduce the size of the prototype and improve it with a natural decompression mechanism. We anticipate that such features will help the capsule gain widespread acceptance and benefit patients with obesity and metabolic diseases,” said Phee.

The article can be found at: Do et al. (2016) Development and Testing of a Magnetically Actuated Capsule Endoscopy for Obesity Treatment.


Source: Nanyang Technological University.
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