18th November, 2021 – Gelesis, Inc. released a piece of news, which is summarized as follows:
Gelesis announced today a publication in Nature’s Scientific Reports describing the genesis of the underlying technology and engineering process for Gelesis’ non-systemic superabsorbent hydrogels. These new materials were designed to replicate compositional and mechanical properties of raw vegetables, and the paper describes their therapeutic approach for weight management as well as possible future solutions for other gut-related conditions.
“To my knowledge, this is the first and only superabsorbent hydrogel technology that is made only from food-derived building blocks. This was quite an engineering feat in the biomaterials world,” said Dr. Robert Langer, one of only 12 Institute Professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the most cited engineer in history. Dr Langer is also a co-founder of dozens of biotechnology companies including PureTech Health (co-founder of Gelesis) and Moderna. “It is exciting to see how this terrific work has already led to products that could potentially improve the lives of millions of people,” added Dr. Langer.
Vegetable consumption is a fundamental part of many dietary interventions. Vegetables occupy volume in the stomach, reducing the caloric density of a meal, and their features are known to enhance satiety. Yet in the treatment of obesity and other related conditions like diabetes or gut-related diseases, nutritional and behavioral modifications are often difficult to implement and maintain. Gelesis thus engineered a novel, cellulose-based superabsorbent hydrogel platform designed to mimic many of the properties of raw vegetables. While not a replacement for vegetables as it does not provide any calories or micronutrients, the superabsorbent hydrogels were designed to help you eat less so you can lose weight.
“We wanted to create a large volume that would mix with meals in the stomach, without adding calories, like eating a big salad.” said Dr. Alessandro Sannino, inventor and lead scientist for Gelesis and Professor of Polymer Science and Technology, Deputy Rector and the Director of the Bioslabs at the University of Salento. “Clearly a new superabsorbent material was needed to allow for the administration in a convenient fashion, using only a small number of capsules. We also wanted to emulate the properties of a large amount of ingested raw vegetables since the goal was to target what we believe is one of the root causes of the obesity pandemic, which is the modern Western Diet, and how it affects us.”
The research examined the composition and mechanical properties of the novel superabsorbent hydrogels compared to those of raw vegetables and functional fibers. The superabsorbent hydrogels demonstrated elasticity at orders of magnitude above the tested functional fibers and, as intended, similar to the tested raw vegetables. Notably, those hydrogels with elasticity levels similar to raw vegetables showed benefits in preserving and regulating gut tissue in an ex-vivo organ culture model.
“We were surprised to learn how important the elasticity level of the tested hydrogels was on the integrity of the gut tissue, in our ex-vivo model. We used to think about nutritional fibers in terms of their composition and solubility, and we didn’t appreciate the importance of their mechanical properties. We learned that raw vegetables are exactly in the sweet spot of the gut tissue in our model,” said Dr. Maria Rescigno, Deputy Rector and Group Leader Mucosal Immunology and Microbiota Unit – Humanitas University. “Our data could open a new direction of research on tissue material mechanical interactions, and the highly tunable and biocompatible Gelesis hydrogels are excellent candidates to explore new mechanotransduction based therapeutic approaches.”
Gelesis’ first commercial product, Plenity, contains one of these superabsorbent hydrogels. Plenity is designed to help people feel satisfied with smaller portions so they can manage their weight. It is FDA-cleared to aid in weight management in adults with excess weight or obesity, Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 to 40 kg/m2, when used in conjunction with diet and exercise. It is taken orally as three capsules with 16 oz. of water twice a day, 20 minutes before lunch and dinner. Gelesis has also received regulatory approval to market Plenity in the European Economic Area. Further indications, related to metabolic diseases and gut health, are being explored, utilizing several hydrogel candidates from this platform.
Further information can be found in the Gelesis’s Press Release：