Israeli research targets appetite of obese diabetics

A tiny device has been shown to reduce appetite in very obese patients with type II diabetes.

Electrical stimulation of the stomach from outside the body by a tiny device that resembles a cardiac pacemaker has been shown in preliminary Israeli research to reduce appetite in very obese patients with type II diabetes. The important finding, which must be followed up with larger studies, was disclosed Sunday at a symposium on Cardiovascular Science and Biotechnology in Israel. The symposium was sponsored by the American Jewish Congress (AJC) and held at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Prof. Eddy Karnieli, director of Rambam Medical Center's institute of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism in Haifa, reported on the technique to the participants, 60 of whom came from the US. Karnieli noted that 55 to 60 percent of Israelis are overweight (with a body mass index of 25 or more), and 30% of those are obese. This puts them at high risk of heart disease, Type II diabetes, stroke and many other complications. While exercise and diet are recommended to the obese, these steps are often unsuccessful, forcing those with the most serious problems to take drugs and undergo gastric surgery to reduce their appetites. But gastric stimulation, found to be successful in significantly reducing appetite in dogs, is now being adapted to clinical trials with people. Several dozen morbidly obese patients with diabetes had an electric wire implanted into their stomach via laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery. After three months of stimulation, they had lost on average a significant 7% of their weight six months after implantation, and also improved their glycemic balance, Karnieli said. The medical conference is the first in a series to be sponsored here by the AJC, whose partners are the International Academic Friends of Israel (IAFI) and the Israel Heart Society. The new IAFI effort to bring foreign scientists and researchers to Israel is meant to fight the academic boycott of Israel and the divestment effort by various universities and churches. AJC Jewish affairs director Rabbi Eugene Korn told the participants that his organization would do all it could to prevent Israel from becoming "a pariah state" and to promote its economy and legitimacy. The AJC was very active in getting Britain's Association of University Teachers to roll back its boycott of Israeli academics. Prof. Chaim Lotan, chief of cardiology at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem, lectured on significant advances in treatment of heart disease through the use of improved drug-eluting stents, improved medications and surgical techniques, which have significantly reduced mortality rates. Israeli researchers have been key players in the development of these new technologies, he said. Cardiologists, he said, were increasingly expanding their treatments beyond the heart to peripheral arteries and those in the brain. In the coming years, hybrid facilities that offer both open-heart surgery and advanced angioplasty would probably become available. J.S.