A trial is taking place at London St Mary’s Hospital for a new medical process called bariatric embolisation, which aims to turn off ghrelin in the body, sometimes known as the ‘hungry hormone’.
Seventy-six volunteers with a BMI ranging from 35 to 50 will go through the procedure – an operation performed under local anaesthetic. Surgeons will perform a small incision in the patient’s wrist or groin and insert a hollow tube in which microscopic beads will be deposited. The tube will go through an artery that connects to the top of the stomach or fundus. These beads are intended to block the passageway and consequently reduce ghrelin production.
Out of the 76 volunteers, half will have the beads inserted into an artery, while the other half will have a saline solution placebo. They will all be monitored for a year to measure any effect or progress.
The NHS’s National Institute of Health Research has donated £1.2M to the trial, led by St Mary’s Hospital bariatric surgeon Dr. Ahmed R. Ahmed, with Imperial College London also backing it.
Dr. Ahmed told the MailOnline: “We really need to know it’s the intervention itself having the effect, and it’s not just a placebo effect.”
This trial is the first of its kind in the UK, but approximately 25 people have had the treatment in the US already. Volunteers in the American trial lost around 10% of their weight on average, with some losing significantly more.
Around 6,000 bariatric procedures, such as gastric band surgery, sleeves and bypasses, are done by the NHS every year, which results in extremely long waiting lists.
Dr. Ahmed said to MailOnline that bariatric embolisation would cost £1,500 to the NHS – around 25% of the price of current weight loss surgeries.
Obesity is currently one of the leading risk factors that lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, which can in turn cause a number of other health issues including cardiovascular disease, renal failure, eye damage and nerve damage.
A report from 2018 by the NHS notes that 63% of British adults were considered to be overweight, while 28% were noted to be obese.