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Health-monitoring mouth guard wirelessly links to smartphone

02 Sep 2015

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A team of engineers at the University of California, San Diego, has developed a mouth guard that can monitor health markers such as lactate, cortisol and uric acid in saliva and transmit the information wirelessly to a smart phone, laptop or tablet. According to team, the technology, which is at a proof-of-concept stage, could be used to monitor patients continuously without invasive procedures, as well as to monitor athletes' performance or stress levels in soldiers and pilots.

In the study, engineers focused on uric acid, which is a marker related to diabetes and to gout. Currently, the only way to monitor the levels of uric acid in a patient is to draw blood.

Mouth guard sensor

The mouth guard sensor offers an easy and reliable way to monitor uric acid levels in human saliva.

The team, led by nanoengineering professor Joseph Wang and electrical engineering professor Patrick Mercier, both from the University of California, San Diego, describes the mouth guard's design and performance in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

"The ability to monitor continuously and non-invasively saliva biomarkers holds considerable promise for many biomedical and fitness applications," said Wang.

Testing the sensors

In this study, researchers showed that the mouth guard sensor could offer an easy and reliable way to monitor uric acid levels. The mouth guard has been tested with human saliva but hasn't been tested in a person's mouth.

Researchers collected saliva samples from healthy volunteers and spread them on the sensor, which produced readings in a normal range. Next, they collected saliva from a patient who suffers from hyperuricemia, a condition characterised by an excess of uric acid in the blood. The sensor detected more than four times as much uric acid in the patient's saliva than in the healthy volunteers.

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