Experts are looking for alternatives to perpetual Ozempic injections, and a vibrating pill might be just that.
Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a vibrating pill, called Vibrating Ingestible BioElectronic Stimulator (VIBES), that aims to offer a “gentler and potentially cheaper” alternative to weight-loss drugs.
In a study published in Science Advances, researchers found that the slashed appetite in pigs and minimized weight gain — without any apparent side effects.
As your stomach expands in response to consumption of food, certain cells called mechanoreceptors sense this stretching — sending a signal to the brain via the vagus nerve.
How it works: VIBES, equipped with a small motor and battery, vibrates for about 30 minutes once it reaches the stomach — stimulating mechanoreceptors and tricking the brain into feeling full.
However, this approach may not be reliable in the long term. If the brain finds these stretch signals to be unreliable, it “might start to use other signals to decide how much we eat,” neuroscientist Carlos Campos told MIT Technology Review.
The cost of weight-loss drugs poses a problem for many of the 100 million American adults who have obesity — nudging researchers to look for alternatives.
Despite the hype generated by encouraging studies, the new class of weight-loss drugs could also cause a number of side effects, including loss of muscle mass, gastrointestinal issues, and suicidal thoughts.
The researchers now plan to study the pill in dogs, followed by human trials in “2 to 3 years” if their research gets funded. Notably, Wegovy maker Novo Nordisk is one of the backers of the study.