A team of collaborative researchers have developed a self-inflating weight management capsule used for the treatment of obesity called the EndoPil. The ‘pill’ is actually a prototype capsule containing a balloon that can be self-inflated through a handheld magnet once it is in the stomach—which will induce a sense of fullness. The inflation occurs as a result of a magnetically activated reaction between an acid and a salt and is stored in a capsule producing carbon dioxide which fills up the balloon. The idea is to allow the pill to be safe and effective for oral ingestion—however, clinical trials using this route for administration have not started.
Measuring about 3cm by 1cm, the EndoPil prototype capsule contains a balloon that can be self-inflated with a handheld magnet once it is in the stomach, thus inducing a sense of fullness. Its magnetically activated inflation mechanism causes a reaction between a harmless acid and a salt stored in the capsule, which produces carbon dioxide to fill up the balloon. Credit: NTU Singapore
If successful, this could potentially be a breakthrough non-invasive alternative for tackling the growing global obesity epidemic. Currently, severely obese patients cannot undergo surgery and those who are moderately obese may opt out of surgery if too ill. Therefore, the only option left is another invasive method involving an intragatsric balloon insertion into the stomach through an endoscopy which can render patients with episodes of vomiting.
However, EndoPil may soon be a better option as its viability was confirmed in pig studies and findings were reported in a supplement of scientific journal Gastroenterology.
Professor Louis Phee, a Tan Chin Tuan Centennial Professor in Mechanical Engineering at NTU, explains that, "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. We are now trying to reduce the size of the prototype, and improve it with a natural decompression mechanism. We anticipate that such features will help the capsule gain widespread acceptance and benefit patients with obesity and metabolic diseases."
Professor Lawrence Ho from the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, also adds, "EndoPil's compact size and simple activation using an external hand-held magnet could pave the way for an alternative that could be administered by doctors even within the outpatient, and primary care setting. This could translate to no hospital stay, and cost saving to the patients and health system."