MetaboShield, is an innovative intestinal sleeve that can be lodged permanently in the small intestine via the throat in an anesthesia-free procedure. Though it is still a prototype, when developed the sleeve could help people shed unwanted pounds and potentially help reverse type 2 diabetes.

Developed by students at the the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Biodesign program along with team members at the Hadassah Medical Center in Israel, MetaboShield could offer patients a non-invasive way to handle obesity, a problem that has reached alarming proportions in recent times. Currently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers 35.7 percent of US adults to be clinically obese. That figure is on the rise and a recent report by the research firm GlobalData expects 113 million people in the US to be obese by the year 2022.

The need for a non-invasive and inexpensive risk-free answer to the problem led the Israeli team to design MetaboShield. The semi-flexible intestinal sleeve is placed at the end of the stomach, right at the start of the small intestine (in the duodenum), via the throat.

A closer look at MetaboShield (Photo: Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

"It does not effect appetite and satiety, rather it prevents absorption of the food in the most crucial area – the beginning of the small intestine," Dr. Ishay Benuri-Silbiger, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Hadassah Medical Center, tells Gizmag."This is a great advantage, because the patient can eat regularly with no constraints and changes in habits, contrary to gastric devices."

The idea of placing an intestinal sleeve to limit food absorption isn't new. GI Dynamic's EndoBarrier uses the same principle and promises both weight loss and diabetic control. In a clinical trial, about 59 percent of 22 patients implanted with the device were able to carry it for a year and lost on average 35.3 percent of excess body weight. Other participants in the trial needed to have it removed before the year end due to the device migrating, abdominal pain, nausea and other issues. Having to remove the Endobarrier at the end of a year's time still remains a hurdle for those undergoing the procedure.

Designed to stay in the body indefinitely, MetaboShield's apparent strength is in its design. It has a shape that closely resembles the curved part of the upper small intestine, and the natural C-shape anatomy of that area effectively secures the device, the team claims. "We're different in the anchoring mechanism," Benuri-Silbiger tells Gizmag. "We're using geometric principles to hold the sleeve in place." In theory, there is no constant pressure on the walls of the small intestine and the sleeve's flexibility also helps it absorb pressure from the intestine. It's claimed to help block the amount of calories absorbed without causing intestinal damage.

Researchers claim MetaboShield has an even more dramatic impact on type 2 diabetic patients, helping to reverse the condition. However the reasons why any intestinal sleeve proves effective are unclear.

"There are several theories that try to explain how bypassing such a small portion of the small intestine (10 percent) have such a substantial effect on obesity and diabetes," explains Benuri-Silbiger. "When there are several theories that try to explain a phenomenon it usually means that we haven’t yet reached the accurate explanation. It might be, for example, due to hormonal changes in response to exclusion of food from the most sensitive part of the small intestine. It might be because of introduction of less processed food to an area of the intestine that is accustomed usually to meet food that is more refined."

It's important to note that MetaboShield has yet to prove itself as a permanent and safe solution through clinical trials and FDA testing. Benuri-Silbiger says that they are currently negotiating with incubators to develop the sleeve further and expects it to be out in the market in a several years time.

You can see a video illustrating the design below.

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