‘Surgery in a pill’ may offer diabetics an alternative to bypass surgery

It’s no secret that the people are getting wider, heavier, and less healthy. Sloppy diets, lackluster exercise routines, and seemingly insurmountable daily stresses have led to an epidemic of “lifestyle diseases,” conditions caused by the way people live rather than the genes that make them up.

One of the most prevalent of these conditions is type II diabetes, afflicting tens of millions of Americans an imposing an annual cost of over $174 billion, according to the Center for Disease Control. If the problem goes unchecked, as many as a third of American adults could have diabetes by 2050.

Gastric bypass surgery has showed promise for diabetics — but it’s a major procedure with a host of potential complications and requires that a patient have a body mass index of at least 40. As a result, not a whole lot of patients opt in. Of the American’s who qualify, less than one or two percent undergo the operation.

But a study out this week in the journal Nature Materials offers a different approach that could prove to be a viable and less-invasive alternative to surgery. Simply by swallowing a pill before breakfast, lunch, or dinner, patients with type 2 diabetes may be able to coat their intestines with a thin layer, protecting them from blood sugar spikes.

“We envision a pill that a patient can take before a meal that transiently coats the gut to replicate the effects of surgery,” Jeff Karp, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital researcher who worked on the project, told Digital Trends. “During the past nine years, we’ve been working on this idea and have developed a safe gut-coating material that can potentially mimic the beneficial effects of gastric bypass procedures in the form a pill.”

Karp and his team needed a substance that could both coat the intestines and completely dissolve after its protective job was done. They settled on an FDA-approved substance called sucralfate, used to treat gastrointestinal ulcers. By engineering the compound further, they ended up with a substance they’ve called Luminal Coating of the Intestine (LuCI). Once ground into a dry powder, LuCI can be packaged into a pill.

Given to rodents, LuCI formed a thin layer over the animals’ intestines, providing a barrier for three hours from nutrients and helping regulate their blood sugar levels.

“LuCI can be activated in any part of the gastrointestinal tract … to form a temporary physical barrier that isolates that part of gastrointestinal tract,” Karp explained.

Moving forward, the researchers aim to test the substance for its long-term impact in a diabetic model. They hope to expand these trials to humans within the next year or two, with a best-case scenario seeing the treatment come to market in five years.

Emerging Tech

Global Good wants to rid the world of deadly diseases with lasers and A.I.

Global Good, a collaboration between Intellectual Ventures and Bill Gates, aims to eradicate diseases that kill children in developing nations. It tackles difficult problems with high-tech prototypes.
Outdoors

High-tech but low-key, these are the amazing materials inside your outdoor gear

We take a look at some of the materials that are used in the creation of our favorite outdoor gear, making our jackets, sleeping bags, tents, and other items warmer, drier, and more comfortable even in harsh weather conditions.
Product Review

Bigger battery and folding top add appeal, but BMW’s i8 remains ultra-niche

Want a high-performance vehicle that's more than just a frightening driving experience? Desire the look and feel of a sports car with the road manners of a luxury commuter? The BMW i8 is for you.
Emerging Tech

Of all the vape pens in the world, these 5 are the best

Vaping concentrates has become significantly more popular, especially among those that use cannabis for medicinal purposes. But don’t use just any vape pen: we found these five devices to be our favorites in 2018.
Computing

The HoloLens 2 will be announced at MWC. Here's what we know about it so far

The HoloLens 2 is ripe for an announcement. Here's what Microsoft has revealed so far, what's likely in store for the next generation HoloLens, and everything that we know about this mixed reality headset.
Emerging Tech

A river of stars one billion years old flows across the southern sky

Astronomers have identified a river of stars flowing across our galaxy and covering most of the southern sky. The estimated 4000 stars that comprise the stream were born together and have been moving together for the last one billion years.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Descending at an angle could be key to landing heavier craft on Mars

Landing on Mars is a challenge: The heavier the craft, the more difficult a safe landing becomes. Scientists propose using retropropulsion engines and angling the craft to create a pressure differential to land heavier crafts in the future.
Emerging Tech

Ant-inspired walking robot navigates without GPS by using polarized light

What do you get if you cross Boston Dynamics and Ant-Man? You get Antbot, a robot from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) which uses ant-like navigation to move around without the aid of GPS.
Emerging Tech

InSight’s heat probe will dig 16 feet beneath the surface of Mars

New images from NASA's InSight mission to Mars have confirmed that the lander succeeded in setting the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument onto the surface, from where a self-hammering spike will burrow downwards.
Emerging Tech

White spots on Ceres are evidence of ancient ice volcanoes erupting

Scientists are pouring over data collected by NASA's Dawn mission to learn about the dwarf planet Ceres and the bright white spots observed at the bottom of impact craters. They believe that these spots are evidence of ice volcanoes.
Emerging Tech

NASA to launch SPHEREx mission to investigate the origins of our universe

NASA is launching an ambitious mission to map the entire sky to understand the origins of the universe. The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission will launch in 2023.
Emerging Tech

Probes exploring Earth’s hazardous radiation belts enter final phase of life

The Van Allen probes have been exploring the radiation belts around Earth for seven years. Now the probes are moving into the final phase of their exploration, coming closer to Earth to gather more data before burning up in the atmosphere.
Emerging Tech

How can digital art created on obsolete platforms be preserved?

As the lines between art and technology continue to blur, digital art experiences become more commonplace. But these developments are raising an important question for art conservationists: How should digital artworks be preserved?