PITA Fiscal Year 2013 Projects

Edible Gastric Stimulators for Non-invasive Treatment of Obesity

Lead University: Carnegie Mellon University
PI: Christopher Bettinger, Materials Science and Engineering
Co-PI: Jay Whitacre, Materials Science and Engineering
PA Industry: Highmark

Gastroelectrical stimulation (GES) is a therapy designed to treat patients suffering for morbid obesity. In this procedure, an electronic device is implanted into the abdomen and leads are inserted into the tissue near the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Upon stimulation, the vagus nerve, which innervates organs in the GI tract, sends a signal of satiety to the brain. This in turn reduces the patient’s interest in eating. While clinically effective, the procedures to implant GES devices are invasive, expensive, and risky. Furthermore, there are many complications associated with chronically implantable devices including fibrosis, scarring, risk of infection, and device failure.

Hence, there is an urgent, unmet need for GES devices that can be integrated with tissue in a non-invasive manner. We propose the use of edible, biodegradable electronic GES stimulation devices that can be delivered orally. The device will be packaged into a pill form factor that will protect the device as it passes through the stomach. The protective layer will be engineered to deploy within the small intestine. Upon direct exposure to the small intestine, the device will become hydrated, which will activate two components of interest. First, hydration will lead to the expansion of biodegradable shape-memory electrodes.

Complementary cathode/anode pairs will form intimate contact with the soft tissue in the small intestine. Second, hydration of the battery will initiate activation of the wet cell. Temporary GES will proceed after which the device will be passed through the GI tract. The device will be fabricated from non-toxic materials, which will pose minimal risk to the patient.