Tag Archives: gum

Chewing robot developed to test gum as a potential drug delivery system

Researchers at the University of Bristol (UoB) have created a robot for a peculiar purpose: chewing gum.

Image via Pixabay.

Robots keep coming for our jobs. Today, they’ve taken one of the easier ones — gum chewer. However, rest assured, it’s all in the name of science.

The robot is dentated to become a new gold standard for the testing of drug release from chewing gum. It has built-in humanoid jaws which closely replicate our chewing motions, and releases artificial saliva to allow researchers to estimate the transfer of substances from the gum to a potential user.

I have a mouth and I must chew

“Bioengineering has been used to create an artificial oral environment that closely mimics that found in humans,” says Dr Kazem Alemzadeh, Senior Lecturer in the UoB Department of Mechanical Engineering, who led the study.

“Our research has shown the chewing robot gives pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to investigate medicated chewing gum, with reduced patient exposure and lower costs using this new method.”

Chewing gum is recognized as a possible drug delivery method, but there currently aren’t any reliable ways of testing how much of a particular compound they can release during use.

The team’s theoretical work showed that a robot could be useful for this role — so they set out to build it and test it out.

The team explains that the robot can “closely replicate” the human chewing process. Its jaws are fully enclosed, allowing for the amount of released xylitol (a type of sweetener common in gum) to be measured.

n) shows the final prototype, l) shows a digital model of the robot.
Image credits Kazem Alemzadeh et al., (2020), IEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.

In order to assess the robot, the team had human participants chew the gum and then measured the amount of xylitol it contained after different chewing times. The team also took saliva and artificial saliva samples after 5, 10, 15, and 20 minutes of continuous chewing. The robot’s gum was then tested similarly and compared to that of the human participants.

The release rates between these two chewed gums were pretty similar, the team found. The greatest release of xylitol occurred during the first five minutes. After 20 minutes of chewing, only a low level of this compound remained in the gum, regardless of how it was chewed.

All in all, this suggests that the robot is a reliable estimation tool for chewing gum. It uses the same motions and chewing patterns as humans, and its artificial saliva seems to interact with the gum in a very similar way. As such, it could serve as the cornerstone of medical chewing gum.

“The most convenient drug administration route to patients is through oral delivery methods,” says Nicola West, Professor in Restorative Dentistry in the Bristol Dental School and co-author of the study.

“This research, utilizing a novel humanoid artificial oral environment, has the potential to revolutionize investigation into oral drug release and delivery.”

The paper “Development of a Chewing Robot with Built-in Humanoid Jaws to Simulate Mastication to Quantify Robotic Agents Release from Chewing Gums Compared to Human Participants” has been published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.

Gum diseases could open the body to a swarm of infections

Mouth microbes may be connected to a variety of illnesses, more and more studies are showing.

Source: G. Hajishengallis/Nat. Rev. Immuno. 2015

Dental care has been disconnected from general health care for many years now, but the more you start to think about it, the stranger it seems. After all, you don’t really separate any other branch of medicine so… why teeth? It all started in the 19th century, following conflicts between surgeons and dentists in England. The conflict was carried on in the United States, after medicine became linked to employer insurance and Medicare. The fissure between medicine and dentistry widened, until it was irreparable. Medicine was split into dental care and all the rest… and has remained so to this day. But is it really fair to exclude dental care from the rest of health care?

When Salomon Amar, a periodontal specialist at Boston University, began exploring links between oral bacteria and heart disease in animal studies in the late 1990s, reactions were unfriendly. Skepticism, in all its forms, was the general response – why would a dentist become involved in heart disease studies? But Amar was’t alone. Wenche Borgnakke, a dental researcher at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, has been making the same case for years, pointing to several published studies. Especially, a study published last year in the journal Medicine highlights that patients on dialysis who received periodontal treatment had an almost 30 percent lower risk of pneumonia and hospitalization from infections. Furthermore, a recent study found that gum problems is associated with a 10% higher mortality.

The scale seems to be tipping the other way, as more and more physicians are noticing connections between oral hygiene and general health. Says Jean Wactawski-Wende, a cancer epidemiologist at the State University of New York at Buffalo:

“The more I work on oral health and cancer, the more I think, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to keep my teeth clean.’ ”

Plaque seems to one of the main culprits, and that makes a lot of sense – after all, it’s a thick layer of bacteria inside your mouth.

“If you do not brush your teeth, it will sit there and accumulate. As that plaque gets thicker and thicker, there is less and less oxygen in the deepest layers,” Borgnakke says. Safely sheltered, the innermost plaque starts to favor anaerobic bacteria, which, when they escape into the blood, can survive in the oxygen-starved nooks and crannies deep inside the body.

While many questions still remain, and the relationship between gum health and overall health remains an open question, there is growing evidence that you gums can open the body to a swarm of infections. The science is not yet clear on it, but in the mean time, it’s better to be safe and sorry. Clean your gums, you may be helping your entire body.