UK scientists have designed an implantable microchip that attaches to the vagus nerve, which helps to control a variety of body functions from heart rate to hunger. The chip, which is just a few millimeteres in size, is designed to read electrical and chemical signatures of appetite. The device then sends electrical signals to the brain to reduce or stop the urge to eat.
The work could provide an alternative to weight-loss surgery. Sir Stephen Bloom, one of the researchers involved in the project, says that the chip could provide an alternative to “gross surgery” and reassures potential patients that “There will be a little tiny insert and it will be so designed as to have no side effects, but restrict appetite in a natural way”.
Although this might sound revolutionary, there are other groups working on the vagus nerve to combat obesity. American companies such as EnteroMedics and IntraPace both use vagus nerve stimulation to try to reduce food consumption.