The key to one’s stomach fullness may lie in a vibrating capsule, according to one weight-loss treatment study involving pigs and Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers.
The pill, called Vibratory Ingestible BioElectronic Stimulator, or VIBES for short, stimulates nerve endings that sense stomach expansion, tricking the brain into thinking the stomach is full.
“The capsule, about the size of a large vitamin, houses a tiny motor that starts vibrating when it hits the stomach, stimulating the organ’s stretch receptors,” according to MIT Technology Review magazine.
Researchers found that animals given the drug 20 minutes before eating had stimulated the release of hormones that signaled satiety and reduced their food intake by about 40%, according to a news release.
“For somebody who wants to lose weight or control their appetite, it could be taken before each meal,” said Shriya Srinivasan, PhD, a former MIT graduate student and postdoc who is now an assistant professor of bioengineering at Harvard University. “This could be really interesting in that it would provide an option that could minimize the side effects that we see with the other pharmacological treatments out there.”
Srinivasan is the lead author of the new study, which appeared Friday in Science Advances, an “open access” journal from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The current version of VIBES is designed to vibrate for 30 minutes after arriving in the stomach, but researchers plan to explore the possibility of it remaining there longer, with the ability to be able to turn it on or off wirelessly.
During animal testing, the pills passed through the digestive track in about four to five days.
“The animals did not show any signs of obstruction, perforation, or other negative impacts while the pill was in their digestive tract,” MIT’s release said.
VIBES researchers will now look into scaling up manufacturing of the capsules, “which could enable clinical trials in humans.”
Currently, celebrities and everyday folks are turning to drugs like Ozempic, Wegovy and Mounjaro for weight loss.
Mounjaro and Ozempic were approved by federal health officials to lower blood sugar levels in adults with type 2 diabetes. However, given their weight-loss effects, both drugs were also being used “off label” to treat obesity, especially when Wegovy was hard to come by.
Wegovy and Ozempic have the same active ingredient, semaglutide, but they have different dosages and FDA-approved intended uses.
Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy was approved in 2021 by the FDA for chronic weight management.
At the time, it was the first drug approved since 2014 for long-term weight management, and it quickly surged in popularity.