Research highlight

Health sciences: Chewing gum that detects peri-implant disease

Nature Communications

August 16, 2017

A diagnostic chewing gum that can detect inflammation caused by dental implants is described in Nature Communications this week. This simple ‘anyone, anywhere, anytime’ approach could help to increase the ease of diagnosis of peri-implant disease.

‘Anyone, anywhere, anytime’ diagnostics aim to allow increased access to medical diagnosis by removing the need for clinical testing. These approaches are dependent on easy to identify and hard to misinterpret signals in the case of positive diagnosis.

Lorenz Meinel and colleagues develop a biosensor for detecting peri-implant disease that produces a bitter taste to indicate a positive diagnosis. They bind the sensor to another compound and embed it into a chewing gum, which is tasteless in healthy patients. However, the occurrence of peri-implant disease increases the production of specific enzymes that can cleave the biosensor and release the strong bitter compound. The group use an “artificial tongue” that can detect the bitter compound to distinguish between saliva samples from patients with peri-implant disease and asymptomatic volunteers.

Although the chewing gum has yet to be tested on volunteers in a clinical setting, the chewing gum could remove the need for complex kits and expert intervention at the point of diagnosis. The authors suggest that in the future, the gum may see use in dentist offices or for personal use.

doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-00340-x

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