Researchers testing new Weight Loss Technique by Freezing “Hunger Nerve”

Researchers testing new Weight Loss Technique by Freezing “Hunger Nerve”

By freezing posterior vagal trunk, a nerve that sends signals related to hunger to our brain, researchers are testing a new technique to keep weight under check. Weight loss by using this technique will be less invasive compared to other surgical treatment options. The technique reduces food intake and appetite, resulting in weight loss over long term. By freezing a part of the nervous system, informally termed as “the hunger nerve”, long term weight loss can be achieved. Posterior vagal trunk, the nerve which is part of the larger vagus nerve sends signals the brain when an individual is hungry.

As the food intake will reduce over time, the weight loss can remain permanent, compared to other diet or weight loss plans. Dr. David Prologo, an interventional radiologist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta led his research on a small group of study participants. The study team noticed that by freezing the ‘hunger nerve’, the hunger signal was shut down.

The study was conducted at Emory University School of Medicine and study participants underwent a minor surgical procedure. A probe was inserted in the participant’s back for freezing the nerve for two minutes. By checking the signals on CT scan, the research team confirmed that the hunger signal was shut down. The phase 1 trial was mainly conducted to check if the procedure involving ‘hunger never’ was safe.

Earlier research on weight loss has also indicated the role of posterior vagal trunk in weight gain among individuals. The posterior vagal trunk -- is a branch of the larger vagus nerve that works on the heart, lungs and GI system. For some people, losing weight can be very difficult. After an individual has shifted from overweight category to obese, it becomes difficult to exercise and metabolism slows down

The study was conducted on 10 study participants who were in overweight category. The body mass index (BMI) of the study participants was between 30 and 37. Of 10 study participants, 8 were women with age ranging from 27 to 66 years. After the procedure, the research team removed the probe and a small bandage was applied. The participants were released on the same day.

The research team monitored study participants after 7, 45 and 90 days after the procedure was conducted. Researchers reported 100 percent technical success rate as no one suffered from procedure related complications. After each appointment with researchers, study participants reported reduced appetite. Study team noticed average weight reduction by 3.6 percent among study participants. The BMI number for study participants reduced on an average, by 13.9 percent.

Dr. Prologo informed, “Ninety-five percent of people who embark on a diet on their own will fail or gain their weight back at the six- or 12-month. The reason for this is the body’s backlash to the calorie restriction.”
In an interview with Live Science, Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center director Lawrence Cheskin, who did not take part in the research, said that upcoming studies should ideally feature comparisons with other weight loss methods, “to be more certain of a direct effect of the procedure performed.”

The research team is planning to conduct a second trial in which the results will be compared with a control group.

Study results were presented at the Society for Interventional Radiology Conference this week in Los Angeles. The study has not been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.