Surgery-in-a-pill could treat diabetes

Written by Surat Parvatam

A pill mimics the effects of bariatric surgery and improves Type 2 diabetes.10970

Many obese Type 2 diabetes patients undergo Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, or bariatric surgery, to resolve their disease. This surgery creates a new 30–60 cm3 volume gastric pouch that is directly connected to the small intestine, bypassing the lower part of stomach. This exclusion of food and nutrients from a major part of the stomach leads to weight loss and improvement in Type 2 diabetes. However, not many people undergo the procedure as it is associated with a long recovery period and strict dietary restrictions for the rest of their lives.

Researchers from the Erasmus MC University Medical Center (The Netherlands) and Harvard Medical School (MA, USA) have developed a pill that, when swallowed, forms a temporary physical coating in the stomach. This coating cuts off the access of food to major parts of the stomach and acts in a similar way to bariatric surgery − but without the surgery.

“What we’ve developed here is essentially, ‘surgery in a pill,’” comments Yuhan Lee, co-lead author on the study. “We’ve used a bioengineering approach to formulate a pill that can attach nicely to the gut…And after a couple of hours, its effects dissipate.”

The pill was made by modifying sucralfate, a water-insoluble salt, which formed a paste coating the stomach lining. When mice were fed this pill, the glucose response (which measures the rise in blood sugar) was reduced by 43% within 1 hour. The effects were completely reversed after 3 days. The compound showed different properties based on its viscosity – the low viscosity paste could control the glucose response to a greater extent compared with the high viscosity paste.

Thus, coating the stomach with this pill simulates the effects of bariatric surgery and dramatically improves the symptoms of Type 2 diabetes.