"Chewing robot" could one day test medicated gum
Given how compounds such as flavoring slowly dissipate out of gum as it's being chewed, scientists are now looking into the controlled oral delivery of drugs via medicated gum. A new robot is being designed with that in mind, as a way of standardizing the chew test.
Developed at Britain's University of Bristol, the "humanoid chewing robot" incorporates a life-size set of mechanical jaws that replicate a typical person's chewing motions. Additionally, in the same way that chewing stimulates the secretion of saliva in people, the robot secretes artificial saliva as it chews, via attached silicone tubing.
In lab tests, both the robot and a group of human volunteers chewed gum that was sweetened with xylitol, for a total of 20 minutes. Once every five minutes throughout that period, natural and artificial saliva samples were gathered from the people and the robot, respectively.
Those samples were subsequently analyzed, to see how the amount of xylitol released from the gum and into the saliva varied over time. The results were quite similar for all of the volunteers and the robot, with the greatest release occurring during the first five minutes of chewing, and little xylitol being left by the 20-minute mark.
It is now hoped that descendants of the chewing robot prototype could be used to assess the release rate of medicated gums in a standardized, controlled fashion.
"Bioengineering has been used to create an artificial oral environment that closely mimics that found in humans," says the lead scientist, Dr. Kazem Alemzadeh. "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."
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.
Source: University of Bristol