Innovative Solution for Dry Mouth: University of Leeds Unveils Groundbreaking Saliva Substitute

by Henrik Andersen
Saliva Substitute

In a pioneering development, the University of Leeds has introduced a revolutionary saliva substitute that boasts up to five times the effectiveness of existing products. Leveraging cutting-edge technology incorporating microgel and hydrogel components, this breakthrough promises enhanced moisture retention and comfort for individuals grappling with dry mouth, potentially ushering in substantial advancements in healthcare and overall quality of life.

Demonstrating the Viability of a Novel Dry Mouth Solution

A groundbreaking aqueous lubricant technology designed to alleviate the discomfort of dry mouth has demonstrated its superiority, outperforming current commercially available alternatives by a factor of four to five in laboratory assessments. The brainchild of scientists at the University of Leeds, this saliva substitute mimics the properties of natural saliva, offering vital hydration and acting as a lubricant during chewing.

Deciphering Microgel Technology

Under the scrutiny of a high-powered microscope, the molecules comprising this innovative substance, known as microgel, take on the appearance of an intricate lattice-like network or sponge, adhering to the mouth’s surface. Encasing the microgel is a hydrogel based on polysaccharides, adept at retaining moisture, ensuring a prolonged sensation of hydration within the mouth.

Professor Anwesha Sarkar, the driving force behind the development of this groundbreaking saliva substitute, affirms, “Our laboratory evaluations indicate that this substance delivers enduring effects. The drawback of many existing commercial products lies in their short-lived effectiveness, as they fail to adhere to the mouth’s surface, necessitating frequent reapplication—sometimes even during conversation or meals. This has a tangible impact on people’s quality of life.”

Research Insights and Performance Benchmarks

Findings from the laboratory assessment, detailed in the study titled “Benchmarking of a microgel-reinforced hydrogel-based aqueous lubricant against commercial saliva substitutes,” have been published in the journal Scientific Reports on November 20.

The enhanced performance of this novel substance, when contrasted with existing alternatives, can be attributed to a process known as adsorption, which denotes a molecule’s ability to bind to a surface, in this case, the interior of the mouth.

Diversified Product Variants and Efficacy

The innovative microgel is available in two variants: one incorporating dairy protein and the other offering a vegan alternative, utilizing potato protein.

The comparative assessment included eight commercially available saliva substitutes, including Biotene by Boots, Oralieve, Saliveze, and Glandosane. It’s important to note that all benchmarking occurred in a controlled laboratory environment, involving synthetic tongue-like surfaces, with no human subjects.

The results revealed that conventional products experienced desorption, signifying the loss of lubrication from the synthetic tongue’s surface, ranging from 23% to 58%. In contrast, the saliva substitute developed at the University of Leeds demonstrated a minimal loss of just 7%, with the dairy version exhibiting a slight advantage over the vegan variant.

Dr. Olivia Pabois, a Research Fellow at the University of Leeds and the paper’s first author, underscores, “The test outcomes establish a robust proof of concept that our material is likely to exhibit superior performance under real-world conditions, potentially offering relief up to five times longer than existing products. Our microgel excels in providing extensive moisturization, forming a strong bond with the mouth’s surfaces, and acting as an effective lubricant, making eating and speaking more comfortable.”

Importantly, the ingredients used in crafting this saliva substitute—both dairy and plant-based proteins and carbohydrates—are non-toxic and non-caloric.

While the evaluation of this innovative product has thus far been confined to laboratory analysis, the scientific team remains confident that these results can be replicated in human trials.

The authors of this study are actively working towards translating this lubricant technology into commercially available products, with the aim of enhancing the quality of life for individuals grappling with debilitating dry mouth conditions.

Addressing Xerostomia—A Prevalent Healthcare Challenge

Xerostomia, commonly known as dry mouth, is a widespread condition affecting approximately one in ten individuals, with a higher prevalence among older populations and those undergoing cancer treatment or taking multiple medications.

In severe cases, dry mouth leads to discomfort during swallowing, ultimately resulting in malnutrition and dental issues, placing an increased burden on healthcare systems.

Reference: “Benchmarking of a microgel-reinforced hydrogel-based aqueous lubricant against commercial saliva substitutes” by Olivia Pabois, Alejandro Avila-Sierra, Marco Ramaioli, Mingduo Mu, Yasmin Message, Kwan-Mo You, Evangelos Liamas, Ben Kew, Kalpana Durga, Lisa Doherty, and Anwesha Sarkar, published on November 20, 2023, in Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-46108-w

Funding: European Research Council, Michael Beverley Innovation Fellowship, UKRI Northern Triangle Initiative, UKRI Healthy Ageing Catalyst Award

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Saliva Substitute

What is the key innovation in the University of Leeds’ saliva substitute?

The key innovation lies in the use of microgel and hydrogel components, offering up to five times the effectiveness of existing saliva substitutes.

How does the microgel technology work?

Under a microscope, microgel molecules form a lattice-like network that binds to the mouth’s surface, while the surrounding hydrogel traps water, providing extended hydration.

How does the Leeds saliva substitute compare to existing products?

Laboratory tests show that it outperforms existing products, with only 7% lubricant loss compared to 23%-58% in commercial alternatives.

Are there different variants of the saliva substitute?

Yes, there are two variants: one with dairy protein and another vegan option using potato protein, catering to different preferences.

What impact does dry mouth (xerostomia) have on individuals?

Dry mouth can cause discomfort during swallowing, malnutrition, and dental problems, especially affecting older individuals and those undergoing cancer treatment or taking multiple medications.

Is the saliva substitute safe for consumption?

Yes, the ingredients, including dairy and plant-based proteins and carbohydrates, are non-toxic and non-caloric, ensuring safety for users.

More about Saliva Substitute

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HealthFirst2023 November 20, 2023 - 10:29 am

Dry mouth prob big deal 4 many, this new subst looks promisin’, safer 2 with non-toxic ingreds.

Reader123 November 20, 2023 - 12:45 pm

Wow, this is a amazin’ new stuff from Leeds Uni. Saliva thingy sounds cool, they say it’s 5 times better, bettr 4 health too.

ScienceGeek22 November 20, 2023 - 6:34 pm

microgel n hydrogel r fascinating, lik tiny sponges in mouth, no loss of lub with Leeds stuff, gr8 news.


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