Scientists at the Tufts University School of Engineering have developed a wearable sensor that can stick to a single tooth to track a user’s diet, based on chemical changes in the mouth.
The sensor, which is mounted onto a tooth and communicates wirelessly with a mobile device, transmits information on the intake of glucose, salt, and alcohol. The subtle device has a 2mm x 2mm footprint and transmits information in response to an incoming radio signal.
The Tufts University research will soon be published in the journal Advanced Materials.
The technology has obvious preventative potential. Giving medical professionals insight into dietary habits could support the treatment of allergies, food intolerances, and eating disorders. It could also help dentists detect problems before they grow to be more serious.
A mouthful of personal data
The team at the Tufts University School of Engineering has say that, in future, sensors such as this could be able to detect and record of a wide range of nutrients, chemicals, and physiological states, well beyond the tracking of glucose, salt, and alcohol intakes.
“In theory, we can modify the bio-responsive layer in these sensors to target other chemicals – we are really limited only by our creativity,” said Fiorenzo Omenetto, corresponding author of the study and Professor of Engineering at Tufts.
“We have extended common RFID technology to a sensor package that can dynamically read and transmit information on its environment, whether it is affixed to a tooth, to skin, or to any other surface.”
The assumption is that miniature sensors such as this will work alongside mobile applications and be monitored by healthcare professionals. In the current climate, this may raise concerns among some citizens about data security and privacy.
There are obvious health benefits to round-the-clock dietary monitoring. But convincing the public that in-mouth wearables should be a mass market product may be the biggest challenge facing the technology.
Plus… Danish scientists develop sensor to detect dangerous drinking water
Danish researchers at Aarhus University have developed a sensor capable of detecting specific bacteria in drinking water, such as E. coli.
The sensor uses DNA-magnetic particle technology to seek out and isolate the bacteria using nano-sized magnets. The sensor can connect directly to a smartphone to provide a reading that detects a single cell of E. coli in less than one hour. Traditional detection methods require lab tests and can take several days.
The research team is aiming to have a commercial product ready for market within three years.
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The innovative application of sensors, wearables, and AI has been a strong theme already this year. Read our in-depth report on the issues facing health services as care providers get to grips with a fast-changing world.
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