TUESDAY, Sept. 16, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- A minimally invasive procedure successfully suppressed levels of the "hunger hormone" ghrelin in pigs and led to appetite reduction results similar to bariatric surgery, say Johns Hopkins researchers.
They chemically vaporized the main vessel carrying blood to the top section (fundus) of the stomach. About 90 percent of the body's ghrelin originates in the fundus, which requires a good blood supply to make the hormone.
The study was published in the Sept. 16 issue of Radiology.
"With gastric artery chemical embolization, called GACE, there's no major surgery. In our study in pigs, this procedure produced an effect similar to bariatric surgery by suppressing ghrelin levels and subsequently lowering appetite," Dr. Aravind Arepally, clinical director of the Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design, and associate professor of radiology and surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in university news release.
Bariatric surgery involves removal, reconstruction or bypass of part of the stomach or bowel to suppress appetite and help people lose weight. However, there are potential major risks and complications associated with the procedure.
"Obesity is the biggest biomedical problem in the country, and a minimally invasive alternative would make an enormous difference in choices and outcomes for people," Arepally said.
In this study, the Hopkins team used 10 healthy pigs, which have human-like anatomy and physiology. After an overnight fast, the pigs were weighed and blood samples were taken to determine their baseline ghrelin levels.
The researchers used X-ray for guidance as they threaded a thin tube through a large blood vessel near the pigs' groins and into the gastric arteries that supply blood to the stomach. They injected sodium morrhuate (a chemical that destroys blood vessels) into the left gastric arteries of five pigs and injected harmless saline into the other five pigs.
Blood samples collected for a month after the procedure showed that ghrelin levels in the GACE-treated pigs were up to 60 percent lower than baseline levels.
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about adult obesity.