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New Procedure Can Help Shed Pounds

Weight Loss Sees the Light

Obese woman kicking stack of donuts

By John Salak –

Weight loss may have a new, relatively painless alternative, which has those looking to shed pounds going to the light, literally. In this case, the laser light.

Losing weight can be extremely challenging in the best of circumstances. Unfortunately, dieting and exercise don’t always deliver the expected results. Surgery is another more drastic option for treating obesity, but not a lot of people are keen on inserting an appetite-suppressing balloon or some other implant in their tummy. Fortunately, there may soon be another option at hand.

A South Korean team reports it has developed a new procedure that coats a smaller implant with a laser-activated dye that kills the cells generating ghrelin, the “hunger hormone,” according to the American Chemical Society. Obviously, whacking these hunger hormones theoretically helps implant recipients eat less and lose more weight. 

The new implant isn’t ready for human consumption yet, but the Korean researchers have successfully tested the procedure on pigs, which is no reflection of the need for these animals to lose weight. 

Among other advantages, these coated devices were easily inserted into the stomach through the mouth with only local anesthesia. The latest application plays off an earlier “intragastric satiety-inducing device” (ISD) that basically consists of a stent, which lodges in the lower esophagus and is attached to a disk that rests in the opening to the stomach. The disk has a hole in the center to let food through. 

The initial test on pigs using this ISD lowered food intake and reduced weight gain by enhancing the feeling of fullness and reducing levels of ghrelin. One drawback with the first run of the procedure was that the disk over time created acid reflux issues and other discomforts for the animals. The research team sought to get around this problem and suppress even more ghrelin by coating the ISD’s disk with a compound that when with a shot of laser light could kill some of the ghrelin-producing cells. Better yet, once these cells with destroyed, the implant could then be removed.

This latest study coated the disk with methylene blue, an FDA-approved drug. When exposed to laser light, the coating released an energized form of oxygen that killed nearby ghrelin-producing cells in the pigs’ stomachs and then rapidly disappeared. After just one week, the treatment reduced ghrelin levels and body weight gain by half compared with an untreated pig. The size of the returns admittedly slowed in the following weeks unless the treatment was repeated. 

Nonetheless, this laser-light approach is a simple procedure that has the potential to become a minimally invasive treatment to help obese patients lose weight. This type of promise can bring hope to over 40 percent of Americans who are obesity prevalent, which comes with the danger of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and even certain types of cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention




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