Weekly semaglutide injections have helped patients lose more than 15kgs. Might this be a magic bullet in the fight against obesity?
We need efficient ways to treat and prevent obesity, even as we fight COVID-19. 29% of women and 26% of men in the UK, according to NHS in data published in 2020 May, were presumed to be obese. These individuals had a body mass index higher than 30.
The situation has now gotten worse thanks to a widespread lockdown-related gain in weight. Obese patients are not only likely to die due to COVID-19; but even worse, University of Glasgow researchers’ recent estimates suggest that obesity might have overtaken smoking as a cause of ill health in Scotland and England.
A healthy balanced diet and suitable physical exercise could prevent weight gain. But this is not considered an effective treatment against obesity. Consuming a very low-calorie diet of not more than 1,000 kcal a day might result in losing about 10 to 15kgs within 12 weeks.
A more modest, cautious calorie restriction prescribed by several commercial slimming plans could cause an average annual weight loss of about 7kgs. However any weight lost through these methods can be regained. And you need another approach to keep the wright off.
To date, various drugs formulated to treat obesity are either inefficient in clinical practice or have harmful side effects like anal leakage or higher blood pressure. Bariatric surgery is the only reliable treatment for critical obesity at the moment, but long-term side effects and risks accompany it.
A series of peptide hormones regulate energy expenditure and appetite. These hormones are released in the intestine. Bariatric surgery works because it changes the gut response to food intake and how it communicates with the brain.
Specifically, glucagon-like peptide (GLP-1) is produced in the ileum in the last section of small intestines. GLP-1 responds to foods containing carbohydrates. Insulin synthesis is thereby promoted and secretion by the pancreas, but it affects the stomach by reducing the digestive system movements and secretion of acid.
The UK researchers published their findings on semaglutide in the New England Journal of Medicine led by John Wilding, in February. They found that a drug mimicking GLP-1 that was initially intended for diabetes treatment caused considerable weight loss in type 2 diabetes patients.
The researchers worked with 1,962 patients, of whom 75% were female. Of these, 13% were Asian, 6% black, and 75% white. Their average body mass index was 38. Patients were randomly divided into 2 equal groups. One group received semaglutide weekly injections, while the control group received placebo injections for 68 weeks. Both groups got lifestyle advice and diet.
The semaglutide group lost an average of 15.3kgs in contrast to 2.6 from the control group. The treatment effect difference in the two groups was 12.7kgs weight loss.
The treatment as successfully reduced blood pressure by 5.1mmHg, and the patients reported better physical functioning. The treatment’s major side effects included nausea, diarrhea, and occasional vomiting. And to those on active treatment, there were more frequent gastrointestinal disorders. Of more concern may be the accelerated danger of pancreatitis and gallbladder disease.
As these high-quality trials show, semaglutide causes remarkable weight loss compared to other drugs tested so far. What happens after the treatment ends is uncertain. Preventing the weight from piling back on is a great challenge, and the lesson learned from bariatric surgery is that patients should avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and unhealthy snacking. Smaller portions of calorie-dense foods help.
The research findings need to be confirmed with a more ethnically diverse population with a higher proportion of males. From a practical standpoint, the drug injection’s weekly requirement is more likely to curb a more significant rollout of the treatment. Oral preparations of the drug are still under trials.
While semaglutide appears promising as an obesity treatment, it is not exactly a magic bullet. We should continue to promote a healthy lifestyle as well as discourage unhealthy eating habits that lead to obesity.
The Dawn of AI-Enhanced Rehabilitation: How AI-Powered Trousers are Revolutionizing Stroke Recovery
In the quaint town of Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, a remarkable story of resilience and technological innovation is unfolding. Julie Lloyd, a 65-year-old stroke survivor, is relearning to walk, aided by a groundbreaking piece of technology: trousers powered by artificial intelligence (AI). This pioneering trial in the UK marks a significant leap in medical technology, offering new hope to stroke victims worldwide.
The Breakthrough in Stroke Rehabilitation
Julie’s journey is not just a personal triumph but a beacon of hope for millions affected by strokes. According to the World Health Organization, strokes are the second leading cause of death globally, and the leading cause of acquired disability among adults. The road to recovery is often long and arduous, with traditional rehabilitation methods providing varying degrees of success.
The AI-powered trousers represent a paradigm shift in rehabilitation technology. As Julie puts it, “I really feel this is the breakthrough for stroke victims that has been much and long awaited for.” This sentiment echoes the sentiments of many in the medical community who have long sought more effective ways to aid stroke recovery.
How the Technology Works
The AI trousers are a marvel of modern engineering and medical science. They function by using a series of sensors and motors that work in tandem with the wearer’s movements. This technology is not just about physical support; it’s about enhancing the body’s natural ability to relearn movements. The AI component analyses the wearer’s gait, providing real-time adjustments to improve walking patterns, much like a physical therapist would.
This approach is grounded in the concept of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections. By assisting in the correct movement patterns, the trousers help the brain to ‘relearn’ walking, potentially speeding up the recovery process.
The Impact on Stroke Rehabilitation
The implications of this technology are vast. For stroke survivors, the journey to recovery can be filled with frustration and despair. Traditional rehabilitation methods can be slow and, at times, ineffective. The AI trousers offer a more dynamic and responsive form of therapy that could revolutionize how we approach stroke rehabilitation.
In a study conducted by the American Stroke Association, it was found that early and individualized rehabilitation can significantly improve outcomes for stroke survivors. The AI trousers align perfectly with this philosophy, offering a tailored rehabilitation experience that adapts to the individual’s needs.
Challenges and Future Prospects
Despite the promise, the road ahead for AI in medical rehabilitation is not without challenges. Cost and accessibility are significant concerns. Cutting-edge technology often comes with a high price tag, potentially putting it out of reach for many who could benefit from it.
Moreover, there’s the challenge of integrating such technology into existing healthcare systems. As noted by experts in healthcare technology, the adoption of new medical technologies often faces hurdles in terms of regulatory approval, practitioner training, and patient acceptance.
However, the future looks bright. As AI and robotics continue to advance, we can expect these technologies to become more affordable and widespread. The potential for AI to aid in various aspects of healthcare, from diagnosis to treatment and rehabilitation, is enormous.
Julie Lloyd’s story is just the beginning. As we stand on the cusp of a new era in medical technology, the possibilities are endless. The AI-powered trousers are more than just a piece of technology; they are a symbol of hope and a testament to human ingenuity. For stroke survivors around the world, this could be the dawn of a new day in rehabilitation, one where technology and human resilience come together to create new possibilities.
Computer Scientists based at the University of Bath are experimenting with conductive seams to track all physical activity.
According to the scientists, these charged seams are powerful enough to detect even subtle movements that a smartwatch or a fitness app would miss.
Conductive seams in clothing yield data that can be analyzed to gain a better understanding of how the wearer moves.
“There are lots of potential applications for conductive yarn in any activity where you want to identify and improve the quality of a person’s movement,” explained Ph.D. student Olivia Ruston at Bath. “This could be very helpful in physiotherapy, rehabilitation, and sports performance.”
They are not the first team of scientists to create textile sensors for use in clothing, but it is the first project that focuses on using conductive seams.
This study has uncovered how the number of conductive seams and their placement on garments affects the yarn’s ability to record information.
“There’s great potential to exploit the wearing of clothing and tech – many people are experimenting with e-textiles,” Ruston said, “but we don’t have a coherent understanding between technologists and fashion designers, and we need to link these groups up so we can come up with the best ideas for embedding tech into clothing.”
Ruston’s team of scientists is working with a special kind of yarn. This yarn is built with a unique conductive core made from a hybrid material designed to sense pressure and stretch. This hybrid is made from a metal-polymer combination.
The yarn is woven into the seam of a garment and then activated, strictly at low voltages. The wearer’s body movements will bring about variations in the resistance of the yarn and tension within the seams.
The researchers used a microcontroller to relay the voltage signal from the seams and onto a computer.
Co-author Professor Mike Fraser explains that their work will influence the fashion industry: “Our work provides implications for sensing-driven clothing design.” Fraser is the head of computer science at the University of Bath. “As opportunities for novel clothing functionality emerge, we believe intelligent seam placement will play a key role in influencing design and manufacturing processes. Ultimately, this could influence what is considered fashionable.”
A Tattoo that lets you know when you are Ill
Scientists have long been interested in implanting sensors that can monitor changes in body chemistry. Such sensors could prove useful for tracking the progress of diseases or how well a patient is responding to treatment.
The downside to such sensors is that they couldn’t remain inside long enough and end up losing their effectiveness or getting rejected by the body the longer they stayed inside.
A team of scientists based at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany (JGU) has now succeeded in building a sensor that can remain in the body for months on end after implantation.
Built from modified gold nanoparticles that have unique receptors for particular molecules, the sensors get implanted underneath the skin and come encased in artificial tissue.
What makes the gold nanoparticles so remarkable is the way they change color in response to changes in their environment. The researchers wanted to take advantage of this feature to create color-changing tattoos.
“Our sensor is like an invisible tattoo, not much bigger than a penny and thinner than one millimeter,” clarified JGU Nanobiotechnology Group head Prof Carsten Soennichsen.
Published in the Nano Letters journal, the study involved researchers testing the sensors on hairless rats. As the rats received antibiotic doses, researchers noticed the sensors changing color.
The scientists used a non-invasive instrument to detect changes in color. They observed that the sensors stayed stable and continued working for months.
“As they [the nanoparticles] can be easily coated with different receptors, they are an ideal platform for implantable sensors,” said Dr. Katharina Kaefer, who was the lead author of the study.
So far, it seems that gold nanoparticle sensors have a place in our future. They may prove useful in drug development by monitoring drugs and biomarkers in our bodies. They may also work in medical research, chronic disease management, or medicine.
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