German-U.S. team test intestinal tube implant to treat obesity

Scientists in Germany and the U.S. said that placing a nonpermeable tube in the small intestine could someday help treat obesity and related conditions such as Type 2 diabetes.

A team from Helmholtz Zentrum München worked with researchers at the University of Cincinnati on the device, and their findings are detailed in the British medical journal Gut.

Antiobesity devices are big business, as obesity levels rise around the world. Among the most successful: Allergan's ($AGN) Lap-Band gastric banding system (though some researchers dispute its success and safety). Other companies are pursuing their own approach to device-related obesity treatments, at varying stages of success. Minnesota's EnteroMedics ($ENTM), for example, is trying to obtain FDA approval for Mastro, an implant with two electrodes designed to stimulate the vagus nerve between the esophagus and the stomach, helping patients to feel full. (The device generated mixed trial results.) GI Dynamics ($GID) is hoping for a U.S. launch by early 2017 for EndoBarrier, which uses a flexible tube-shaped liner to form a physical barrier between food and a portion of the wall of the intestine. It already has a CE mark and is approved in Australia, among other countries.

The German-U.S. research team took a similar approach to GI Dynamics. They placed a flexible tube known as a duodenal-endoluminal sleeve in the small intestine of diabetic, obese rats; it helped reduce obesity and improve glucose metabolism, apparently by blocking the absorption of nutrients. Future research will focus on how the implant, which is less invasive and removable at any time, affects neuroendocrine activity and metabolism. What's more, the researchers hope to test their approach in human studies, possibly in conjunction with hormone therapy.

- read the release
- here's the journal abstract

Editor's note: This story is updated to reflect that GI Dynamics envisions a U.S. launch for EndoBarrier, at this point, by early 2017.

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