A stomach implant that can fool your body into thinking it is full is now available in Europe. Designed as an alternative to gastric bypass surgery, California-based IntraPace has started selling the implant Abiliti in Germany, Spain and the UK.
When implanted, eating prompts the device to create a feeling of fullness by stimulating nerves around the stomach. Sixty five patients who trialled Abiliti over a year lost an average of 22 per cent of their total body mass across the group. Some patients lost up to 38 per cent of their body mass.
Abiliti is around five centimetres square and half a centimetre thick, about the size of a pacemaker. It is implanted into the abdominal cavity, outside the stomach. This is done through keyhole surgery, minimising the invasiveness of the procedure.
Two wires connect it to the stomach; one for sensing and the other for stimulating. The sensor passes through the stomach wall. The stimulating wire runs from the central pack to an electrode attached to stretch receptor nerves outside the stomach. As soon as the stomach stretches to accommodate food, these nerves are stimulated by the electrode which then lets the brain know that the stomach is full via electric impulses through the vagus nerve.
The ability to detect food as soon as it enters the stomach means the implant stimulates nerves before the stomach actually starts to fill, giving a premature sense of fullness. However, stimulating the vagus nerve regularly can lead to habituation where the nerve adapts to the stimulus and essentially learns to ignore it.
This could be an issue with Abiliti; after prolonged use patients may find the implant’s effectiveness fading. This is why it is used as part of a wider array of treatments for obesity, including changes in diet and exercise as Abiliti can measure how much exercise a patient is doing with an accelerometer.
The acceleration data can be wirelessly uploaded to a computer, helping manage the treatment of obesity better as patients with Abiliti implanted would also be given exercise and diet regimes.
At over $21,000 (approximately £13,000) Abiliti is an expensive alternative to gastric bypass surgery or stomach stapling, both treatments for obesity. But as the implant does not change the structure of the stomach it should not have the same side effects including nausea and vomiting. The most likely side effect would be infection from the surgical procedure to attach it to the stomach.News & discovery.