A couple of years ago, Gale Johnson got a diagnosis she feared would come: type-two diabetes.
"I have a list of medications that I take," said Gale.
Patients like Gale might not need medications at all. Doctors at Washington University are studying the EndoBarrier for type-two diabetes.
"It's essentially doing the same kind of thing that you would get from surgery," said Dr. Shelby Sullivan, a Gastroenterologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.
Doctors insert the plastic-like device through a tube, passed through the mouth and stomach into the first part of the small intestines.
When food passes, the implant forms a barrier between it and digestive enzymes in the intestine. Researchers believe the device may also alter hormone signals in the digestive tract.
"It's affecting metabolism in a way that it's improving diabetes," said Sullivan.
The EndoBarrier is already approved in Europe, Australia, Chile, and Israel, but still in clinical trials in the U.S. In previous studies, patients experienced a 20 percent weight loss and a two-point improvement in their hemoglobin A1C levels, a tool that measures blood sugar.
"That helps a diabetic because it's getting their blood sugar under control, so it actually may help them get off of medication," said Sullivan.
That could mean a better life for people like Gale.
Currently, the device is placed in patients for just one year and then taken out. However, Sullivan says the patients previously studied still saw long-term effects even after it was removed. Risks are extremely rare, but include poking a hole in the small intestine and blockages in the intestines.