Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the School of Engineering & Applied Science are developing what they call a smart-tooth technology. Their goal for the technology is to detect early signs of diseases common to high-risk patients by analyzing saliva or gingival crevicular fluid.
The researchers have created what they call an electronic tooth. It’s essentially a small biosensor and chip measuring several cubic millimeters that can be inserted under a subject’s gum line, perhaps in braces or other dental device. Using bio-recognition elements, the electronic tooth would measure peptides common to certain diseases.
The research team will first work on monitoring peptides related to bone breakdown during periodontitis. A wireless ultrasound device would be used to read the peptide levels and connect to the cloud, sending the data to a doctor or healthcare professional.
According to the researchers, their highest hurdle is chemistry. Srikanth Singamaneni, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, explains, “We have a finite number of bio-recognition elements conjugated to the transducer when using an antibody that is specific to these peptides. They get saturated quickly. The question is how do you refresh those sensors? That’s one of the aspects we are working to address with this project.”
Checkout a brief video demo of the electronic tooth.