Innovative Vibrating Pill Aims to Trick the Stomach into Sensation of Fullness

January 06, 2024

In a recent study led by Harvard University, an innovative approach to appetite control was explored. The researchers developed a compact 31-by-10-millimeter pill equipped with a small motor and battery. The pill contains a gel plug that initially prevents the motor from activating, but swiftly dissolves upon contact with stomach fluid, initiating a 38-minute vibration sequence—roughly the time the pill resides in the stomach. The team theorized that these vibrations would activate stretch-sensing nerve endings, signaling a sense of fullness.

Testing the pill involved using pig models, whose stomachs are similar in size and weight to humans. Measurement of the vagus nerve's electrical activity revealed a firing pattern resembling stomach expansion with air, indicating that the pill stimulated nerve endings. As the device vibrates and rotates within the stomach folds, it induces changes in hormone levels comparable to those triggered by a meal, including increased insulin and decreased ghrelin, a hunger-promoting hormone. Remarkably, pigs with the pill ate approximately 40% less than control subjects, showcasing the potential of this vibrating pill as a novel approach to appetite regulation.