The prototype capsule ‘EndoPil’ contains a balloon activated via an inflation mechanism that works with an external handheld magnet which causes it to fill up with carbon dioxide.
It is designed by a team of professors at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the National University Health System (NUHS). It is said to be a more effective alternative to intragastric balloons.
An intragastric balloon is a newer kind of weight-loss procedure where a saline-filled silicone balloon is placed in your stomach, which helps you lose weight by limiting how much you can eat. It also makes you feel fuller faster.
Unlike intragastric balloons, EndoPil is meant to be ingested orally with a cup of water like any drug.
According to the scientists, the capsule could represent a non-invasive intervention for tackling global obesity epidemic, unlike intragastric balloon which occasionally leads to nausea and vomiting due to sudden inflation (EndoPil is gradual).
In a preclinical study published in the Scientific Journal of Gastroenterology, a larger prototype was tested with pigs and a 1.5kg weight loss was reported after a week, as opposed to a control group of five pigs that gained weight without the capsules.
Administering the capsule via oral ingestion for humans is yet to begin but a 2018 trial through endoscopy reported that the balloon was successfully inflated in the stomach without discomfort or injury.
Although the scientists said EndoPil currently has to be deflated magnetically after a treatment cycle of one month (to prevent the stomach from getting used to the capsule in case of prolonged placement ), the team added that a natural and pre-programmed deflation mechanism is being worked out.
“EndoPil’s main advantage is its simplicity of administration. All you would need is a glass of water to help it go down and a magnet to activate it,” said Louis Phee, professor at NTU’s mechanical engineering department.
“We are now trying to reduce the size of the prototype, and improve it with a natural deflation mechanism to help the capsule gain widespread acceptance and benefit patients.”