To replace bariatric surgery in the fight against obesity, an interdisciplinary
group of students and medical professionals have developed a prototype for an
insertable gastric sleeve to stop the absorption of food in the
Students from the Biodesign program of the Hebrew University
of Jerusalem – a multidisciplinary, team-based approach to medical innovation –
working with gastroenterologists, surgeons and clinicians from Hadassah
University Medical Center in Ein Kerem, worked for over a year to design the
nonsurgical prototype called MetaboShield.
The curving plastic tube can
be inserted down into the throat, through the stomach and then to the duodenum
of the intestine without surgery, general anesthesia or damage to the
To help patients who are obese, the gastric sleeve is aimed at
blocking the absorption of excess food in the intestine. But it could take five
years until the device can undergo clinical testing and be approved for
At present, bariatric surgeons perform general surgery to reduce the
size of the stomach by inserting a sleeve or a ring or removing part of the
stomach so less food can be ingested and digested.
In the United States
alone, the rapidly growing obesity epidemic and its complications are estimated
to cost its economy over $140 billion annually, due to loss of productivity and
The MetaboShield could be inserted with sedation
(due to the natural gag reflex), according to Dr. Yaakov Nahmias, director of
the HU Center for Bioengineering and co-head of the biodesign program at the
He told The Jerusalem Post that the transparent plastic
device is a “mechanical prototype that does not move from place despite the
peristalsis [movement] in the intestine.”
Nahmias said it hadn’t been
decided which type of plastic would be used, but that there is a large
availability of synthetic material that the body won’t reject when left
The idea began with Dr. Ishay Benuri-Silbiger,
a pediatric gastroenterologist at Hadassah, who said that the natural C-shape
anatomy of this region helps keep the sleeve in place, blocking food absorption
without damaging the intestine.
Nahmias stressed that when eventually put
onto the market, the device could save lives, as users would not have to undergo
general anesthesia and surgery, and many people who are very-obese would be
encouraged to undergo the safe insertion of the sleeve so they wouldn’t eat too
The Boston Scientific company “is now looking at it,” said Nahmias.
“But we remain years before application.”
The students and doctors
believe that the new endoscopic procedure could appeal to millions of obese
people who fear the risks of complications from current gastric bypass
“This is a huge untapped market,” said Yair Timna, an MBA
student leading the project’s business development.
Other group members
include Dr. Elad Spitzer, an orthopedic surgeon, Gabi Menagen, an MBA student,
and Esther Feldblum, an engineering student.
The Biodesign program was
created by the university and Hadassah in partnership with Stanford University.
The program takes outstanding medical fellows, bioengineering and business
graduate students, and tutors them in the science and practice of bringing a
medical innovation to the market.