Implanted device could be breakthrough obesity cure

Here’s a body mod that might do you some good: A doctor implants this gizmo from EnteroMedics just under the skin, and hooks up its two electrodes that can electrically block the nerve that makes you hungry. The result? A slimmer you. This could be a sane alternative to the barbaric and permanent gastric bypass surgery.

That sweet spot is the vagus nerve, a 4mm-wide pipe that connects directly to your brain, with no spinal cord involved. The vagus is the traffic cop for food. It controls the characteristics of hunger, such as those gnawing hunger pangs, and also the expansion of the stomach and the satisfying feeling of fullness. So if the stomach doesn’t expand while you’re eating, you start feeling full after taking a just a few bites.

The result? This thing can hold you to 500 calories a day without you feeling like you’re starving to death. This vagal blocking therapy, called VBLOC, has seen success in European trials, with nine patients losing 30 percent of their body weight over nine months. The device, which can be implanted (without cutting you wide open) by using laparoscopic techniques, will soon be tested in the U.S. and Australia on 300 more patients. Could be a breakthrough.

EnteroMedics, via Technology Review