April 1, 2013
Implantable Microchip Could Be Used To Curb Appetite, Battle Obesity
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
The microchips were designed by Imperial College London professors Chris Toumazou and Sir Stephen Bloom, and according to FrenchTribune.com, they will soon be tested in a series of animal trials which could determine whether or not they are a good alternative to weight loss surgery.
The intelligent implantable modulators are only a few millimeters wide and will attach to the vagus nerve in the abdomen´s peritoneal cavity using cuff electrodes. The vagus nerve serves as the primary communicator between the brain and the digestive tract, explained Medical Daily´s Ansa Varughese. Once attached, the chip would be able to read electrical and chemical signals indicating appetite. It would then respond by sending a signal of its own to the brain reducing or halting the urge to eat.
“This is a really small microchip and on this chip we've got the intelligence which can actually model the neural signals responsible for appetite control,” Toumazou told Neil Bowdler of BBC News. “And as a result of monitoring these signals we can stimulate the brain to counter whatever we monitor. It will be control of appetite rather than saying don't eat completely. So maybe instead of eating fast you'll eat a lot slower.”
Bloom added that the intelligent implantable modulators could offer an alternative to “gross surgery,” that it would require only “a little tiny insert,” and that “it will be so designed as to have no side effects, but restrict appetite in a natural way.” He added that the brain “will get the same signals from the intestinal system as it normally gets after a meal, and these signals tell it don't eat any more — the gut's full of food and you don't need to eat any more.”
Human trials of the device could begin in three years, according to the BBC.
The chip itself builds upon a similar, existing technology called MIMATE, which is currently being tested in children suffering from cerebral palsy and epileptic seizures, Varughese explained.
MIMATE picks up on chemical signals sent from the brain to an affected organ, then sends impulses to stimulate that organ in order to help patients gain dexterity and improved hand/eye coordination. However, the intelligent implantable modulator is different in that it does not send stimulating impulses.