Scientists Invent New Vibrating Pill for Weight Loss

The new ingestible capsule vibrates in the stomach, activating stretch receptors to create a sense of fullness similar to what a person feels after eating.

MIT engineers have developed a new "electroceutical" that could help people lose weight and provide a more affordable and less invasive option to gastric surgery or GLP-1 agonists like Ozempic.

The Vibrating Ingestible BioElectronic Stimulator (VIBES) pill is a device that triggers receptors responsible for telling the brain the stomach is full. The brain responds to this signal by releasing insulin, C-peptide, Pyy, and GLP-1 — hormones that help a person stop eating.

Once the device reaches the stomach, gastric fluids dissolve a membrane covering it, which completes an electronic circuit. The circuit then turns on a tiny vibrating motor powered by a small silver oxide battery. It vibrates in the stomach for about 30 minutes after ingestion.

In an animal study published December 22 in Science Advances, MIT scientists tested the new device in pigs and found that animals given the capsule 20 minutes before meals consumed 40% less food than without the pill.

The pigs also gained weight more slowly while undergoing treatment with the device.

In addition the animals did not experience any adverse effects and the capsule passed through the digestive system within four or five days.

In light of their findings, the MIT team plans to investigate ways to manufacture more of the devices so they can conduct studies using human participants. They also want to explore how to design the pill to remain in the stomach longer and be activated as needed.

Moreover, the study authors say that manufacturers could produce the pill at a more affordable cost than other weight loss treatments.

In an MIT news release, lead author Shriya Srinivasan, Ph.D. '20, a former MIT graduate student and postdoc and an assistant professor of bioengineering at Harvard University, said, "For a lot of populations, some of the more effective therapies for obesity are very costly. At scale, our device could be manufactured at a pretty cost-effective price point. I'd love to see how this would transform care and therapy for people in global health settings who may not have access to some of the more sophisticated or expensive options that are available today."

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