Most recent update: Friday, February 28, 2020 - 10:55

Bariatric News - Cookies & privacy policy

You are here

New technologies

Implantable circuit can prevent eating and reduce bodyweight

Illustration shows diet-induced obese mice of the Jackson Laboratory (Credit: Graphics: M Fussenegger/mice photo: Jackson Lab. Copyright: ETH Zurich (ETH News contribution))
Gene network regulates blood-fat levels

A research group headed by ETH-Zurich Professor Martin Fussenegger from the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering in Basel, Switzerland, has developed an implantable genetic circuit mainly composed of human gene components that acts as an early warning system.

On the one hand, it constantly monitors the circulating fat levels in the blood. On the other hand, it has a feed-back function and forms a messenger substance in response to excessively high blood-fat levels that conveys a sense of satiety to the body. The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

In order to construct this highly complex regulatory circuit, the researchers biotechnologists combined different genes that produce particular proteins and reaction steps. They implanted the construct in human cells, which they then inserted into tiny capsules.

They studied obese mice that had been fed fatty food. After the capsules with the gene regulatory circuit had been implanted in the animals and intervened due to the excessive levels, the obese mice stopped eating and their bodyweight dropped noticeably as a result. As the blood-fat levels also returned to normal, the regulatory circuit stopped producing the satiety signal.

"The mice lost weight although we kept giving them as much high-calorie food as they could eat," said Fussenegger. The animals ate less because the implant signalised a feeling of satiety to them. Mice that received normal animal feed with a five-per-cent fat content did not lose any weight or reduce their intake of food.


According to the researchers, one major advantage of the new synthetic regulatory circuit is the fact that it is not only able to measure one sort of fat, but rather several saturated and un-saturated animal and vegetable fats that are ingested with food at once.

However, this development cannot simply be transferred to humans. It will take many years to develop a suitable product. Nonetheless, Fussenegger can certainly envisage that one day obese people with a BMI >30 could have such a gene network implanted to help them lose weight.

He sees the development as a possible alternative to surgical interventions such as liposuction or gastric bands.

"The advantage of our implant would be that it can be used without such invasive interventions," he added.

Want more stories like this? Subscribe to Bariatric News!

Bariatric News
Keep up to date! Get the latest news in your inbox. NOTE: Bariatric News WILL NOT pass on your details to 3rd parties. However, you may receive ‘marketing emails’ sent by us on behalf of 3rd parties.