Researchers identify potential obesity treatment in freezing hunger-signaling nerve

New research has found that people suffering from mild to moderate obesity may be able to lose weight when the nerve that transports hunger signals to the brain is frozen.

The findings, announced at the Society of Interventional Radiology's 2018 Annual Scientific Meeting, showed that the initial pilot phase found treatment to be both feasible and safe.

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The process requires an interventional radiologist to inject argon gas into the patient’s back, with the help of live images streamed from a CT scan, to freeze the nerve. This nerve, called the posterior vagal trunk, is one of multiple sources that communicates hunger to the brain, by signaling that an individual’s stomach is empty.

We developed this treatment for patients with mild-to-moderate obesity to reduce the attrition that is common with weight-loss efforts. We are trying to help people succeed with their own attempts to lose weight."

David Prologo, M.D., FSIR, ABOM-D, Emory University School of Medicine

The study monitored 10 individuals over 90 days, each with a body mass Index (BMI) ranging between 30 and 37. There was an average decline of almost 14% of excess BMI, an overall average weight loss of 3.6% of initial body weight, and each experienced decreased appetite.

Lead author Dr Prologo commented:

"When our stomachs are empty, the body senses this and switches to food-seeking survival mode. We're not trying to eliminate this biological response, only reduce the strength of this signal to the brain to provide a new, sustainable solution to the difficult problem of treating mild obesity."

Due to the insights gained from this preliminary feasibility and safety study, the researchers want to assess the durability and effectiveness of the procedure further, and are enrolling additional participants for an extended clinical trial. The team’s authors highlighted the interim nature of the results and the small sample size as restrictions in the study.

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