Researchers Uncover New Mechanism for Vagus Nerve Hunger Suppression

By Thomas Crocker
Friday, September 10, 2021

An innovative device that stimulates the vagus nerve to trick the stomach into feeling full may produce satiety in an unexpected way.

Texas A&M University researchers developed a wireless, implantable device that uses light to stimulate the endings of the vagus nerve. Affixed to the stomach, the Texas A&M device suppresses hunger by prompting the vagus nerve to communicate a feeling of fullness from the stomach to the brain.

Small currents in the centimeter-long device power micro-LEDs, which produce light when triggered by a remote radio frequency emitter; other vagus nerve stimulators intended to treat obesity require wires to connect to a power source.

During testing in mice, the team found that vagus nerve receptors do not necessarily have to communicate to the brain that the stomach is stretched to produce satiety. “Our findings suggest that stimulating the non-stretch receptors, the ones that respond to chemicals in the food, could also give the feeling of satiety even when the stomach was not distended,” said Texas A&M College of Engineering writer Rachel Rose and researcher Sung Il Park, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M, in a university news release.

The team believes the device could serve as a minimally invasive alternative to gastric bypass surgery.