Could something as simple as a pre-meal pill really reverse Type 2 diabetes? The results of a preclinical study in rats, conducted by researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, suggest it’s possible.

The team of surgeons and scientists created a compound, referred to as LuCI (Luminal Coating of the Intestine). When ingested as a pill, LuCI forms a temporary intestinal coating to block nutrients such as glucose from contacting the gut and preventing post-meal spikes in blood sugar.

One hour after giving the treatment to lab rats, the rodents’ glucose levels had dropped 47%, according to a paper in Nature Materials. Three hours later, the rats’ blood sugars were back to normal.

Dubbed “surgery in a pill” by the Harvard-affiliated researchers, it simulates the dramatic anti-diabetic effects of bariatric surgery used to treat obesity, without the risk of surgical complications.

Since it exerts effects locally, the likelihood of major side effects is low, said Ali Tavakkoli, M.D., co-director of the Center for Weight Management and Metabolic Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a study co-author.

The team is now testing the effects of short- and long-term use of the compound in diabetic and obese rodents.

“Gastric bypass is one of the best studied surgeries in the world, and we know that it can lead to many benefits including positive effects for blood pressure, sleep apnea and certain forms of cancer, and a remarkably fast and weight-independent improvement in diabetes,” Tavakkoli says. “Having a transient coating that could mimic the effects of surgery would be a tremendous asset for patients and their care providers.”