Chewing robot could aid development of medicated gum

A chewing robot with built-in humanoid jaws could help pharmaceutical companies develop medicated chewing gum at lower cost and with less patient exposure.

Chewing robot
A close up of the humanoid chewing robot (Credit: Dr Kazem Alemzadeh, Bristol University)

Medicated chewing gum has been recognised as a new drug delivery method but there is no gold standard for testing drug release from chewing gum in vitro.

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A Bristol University study, published in IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, set out to confirm whether a humanoid chewing robot could assess medicated chewing gum.

The robot is reportedly capable of closely replicating the human chewing motion in a closed environment. It features artificial saliva and allows the release of xylitol – an artificial sweetener – in the gum to be measured.

According to Bristol University, the study wanted to compare the amount of xylitol remaining in the gum between the chewing robot and human participants. The research team also wanted to assess the amount of xylitol released from chewing the gum.

The researchers found the chewing robot demonstrated a similar release rate of xylitol as human participants with the greatest release of xylitol occurring during the first five minutes of chewing. After 20 minutes of chewing only a low amount of xylitol remained in the gum bolus, irrespective of how the gum was chewed.

Saliva and artificial saliva solutions respectively were collected after five, ten, 15 and 20 minutes of continuous chewing and the amount of xylitol released from the chewing gum was established.

In a statement, research leader Dr Kazem Alemzadeh, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, said: “Bioengineering has been used to create an artificial oral environment that closely mimics that found in humans. Our research has shown the chewing robot gives pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to investigate medicated chewing gum.”

Nicola West, Professor in Restorative Dentistry in the Bristol Dental School and co-author, added: “The most convenient drug administration route to patients is through oral delivery methods. This research, utilising a novel humanoid artificial oral environment, has the potential to revolutionise investigation into oral drug release and delivery.”