Although there are several conditions that can cause people to lose their appetite, it is important for these people to Keep Eat to recover. A new ‘electric’ ingestible capsule can help them, keep them hungry… and it’s inspired by lizard skin.
Normally, when our stomachs empty, the endocrine cells lining the mucous membranes produce a hormone called ghrelin. The release of this hormone triggers the hunger response in our enteric nervous system, prompting us to eat. Unfortunately, certain diseases can reduce the activity of these cells, causing people to lose their appetite.
Previously, scientists had studied using a pacemaker-like device to stimulate endocrine cells to artificially make them secrete ghrelin. It goes without saying, though, that surgically implanting such a gadget is an invasive procedure. The use of external electrodes has also been investigated, but delivering electrical current directly to the stomach wall has proven difficult.
With these limitations in mind, a team of scientists from MIT, NYU, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital turned to the Australian spiny devil lizard.More specifically, they looked at its skin — its surface texture that absorbs water droplets and settles them exist The skin faces the animal’s mouth.
The result of this research is an ingestible device called FLASH, which stands for “Liquid Wicking Capsule for Active Stimulation and Hormone Regulation.”
While the capsule contains the battery and electronics inside, its polymer shell contains corkscrew-like grooves that run nearly the entire length of the device.
When one side of the capsule is in contact with the stomach wall, the hydrophilic (water-absorbing) coating on the lower surface of the groove draws liquid away from the membrane, allowing the electrodes on the higher ridges of the groove to make full contact with the stomach lining. These electrodes then deliver an electrical current to the membrane, which stimulates endocrine cells to produce ghrelin.
In tests on pigs, FLASH was found to take effect within 20 minutes of ingestion and trigger a “huge spike” in ghrelin secretion within about an hour. The capsules are eventually—and harmlessly—passed out in the feces. No adverse side effects were observed.
“This research helps establish electrical stimulation via ingestible electronics as a mode of triggering hormone release through the gastrointestinal tract,” said Assoc, the study’s senior author. Giovanni Traverso of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women’s Hospital professor. “We’ve shown an example of how we can engage the gastric mucosa and release hormones, which we anticipate could be used in other parts of the gastrointestinal tract that we haven’t explored here.”
Scientists believe human clinical trials could begin within three years. It is hoped that FLASH technology will eventually replace appetite-stimulating drugs that have unwanted side effects.
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal scientific robot. How the capsules work is explained in the video below.
FLASH – full length