‘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

From electron microscopes to X-rays, high-tech tools expose low-tech art forgery

At the Indianapolis Museum of Art, conservation scientist Greg Smith and Glennis Rayermann, then a Ph.D student, used high-tech equipment to determine if a painting was made by master forger Icilio Federico Joni.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Mobile

Keep your new Google phone pixel perfect with the best Pixel 3 cases

If you want your new Google phone to stay pixel perfect, then you should snag one of the best Pixel 3 cases. We've scoped out some of your best options so far based on different styles, levels of protection, and budgets.
Home Theater

Want to save your favorite movie? Here's how to fix a scratched DVD or CD

A scratched edition of your favorite DVD is no good, but our guide will show you how to fix a scratched DVD, whether you prefer to repair it using a smattering of peanut butter or Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser.
Emerging Tech

This 3D-printed house made of earth and rice husks costs less than an iPhone

Italian 3D-printing company WASP has just demonstrated the 3D printing of a hut structure using a combination of 3D-printed concrete and a mud-based material. All for around $1,000.
Emerging Tech

Scientists want to bore holes through clouds using lasers from satellites

Researchers at the University of Geneva in Switzerland have proposed a plan to use ultra-hot and ultra-short laser beams to punch through cloud layers and transmit information from satellites to Earth.
Emerging Tech

Death from above? How we’re preparing for a future filled with weaponized drones

Drones are beginning to enable everything from search & rescue, to the delivery of medicines to hard-to-reach places. But they are also being used as cheap, and deadly flying bombs. How can we defend ourselves?
Emerging Tech

Behind the unsettling sci-fi landscapes of Simon Stalenhag’s ‘Electric State’

The narrative artbook follows the journey of a young traveler, Michelle, and her robot, Skip, as they head west to the Pacific coast through an alternative America torn apart by civil war and the trappings of military-grade virtual reality.
Emerging Tech

Get your head in the clouds with the best vaporizers for flower and concentrates

Why combust dead plant matter when you could vaporize the good stuff and leave the leaves behind? Here's a rundown of the best vaporizers money can buy, no matter what your style is.
Emerging Tech

Get one of the best cheap drones you can buy, and cry less when you crash

Want to get in on all this hot drone action, but don't want to spend half a paycheck to make it happen? There are actually lots of feature-packed budget options. Check out this list of the best drones under $500.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I.-powered cat toys, wallets, food containers

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

Here are the best (and least likely to explode) hoverboards you can buy

With widespread reports of cheap, knock-off Chinese hoverboards exploding, these self-balancing scooters may be getting a rough reputation. They're not all bad, though. Ride in style with our picks for the best -- and safest -- hoverboards
Product Review

Parrot Anafi drone review

It’s definitely not perfect, and there are a few little things that could be improved, but even so, Anafi is unquestionably the best drone that Parrot has ever made.
Emerging Tech

Looking for a good read? Here are the best, most eye-opening books about tech

Sometimes it's sensible to put down the gadgets and pick up a good old-fashioned book -- to read about the latest gadgets, of course. Here are the tech books you need to check out.