Leeds University Print 3D Tongue Surface
Scientists create synthetic soft surfaces with tongue-like textures using 3D printing for the first time.
18:05 02 November 2020
The Universities of Leeds and Edinburgh have successfully used 3D technology to create synthetic soft surfaces with tongue-like texture for the first time. The work of the UK scientists has demonstrated that their printed synthetic silicone structure mimics the topology, elasticity and wettability of the tongue's surface. The ground-breaking discovery can pave the way for testing oral processing properties of food, pharmaceuticals, nutritional technologies and dry mouth therapies.
Study lead author, Dr Efren Andablo-Reyes said: “Recreating the surface of an average human tongue comes with unique architectural challenges. Hundreds of small bud-like structures called papilla give the tongue its characteristic rough texture that in combination to the soft nature of the tissue create a complicated landscape from a mechanical perspective.
“We focused our attention on the anterior dorsal section of the tongue where some of these papillae contain taste receptors, while many of them lack such receptors.
"Both kinds of papillae play a critical role in providing the right mechanical friction to aid food processing in the mouth with the adequate amount saliva, providing pleasurable mouthfeel perception and proper lubrication for swallowing.
“We aimed to replicate these mechanically relevant characteristics of the human tongue in a surface that is easy to use in the lab to replicate oral processing conditions.”
University of Edinburgh co-author, Rik Sarkar of the School of Informatics said: “The randomness in distribution of papillae appears to play an important sensory role for the tongue.
“We defined a new concept called collision probability to measure mechanosensing that will have large impact in this area. In the future, we will use a combination of machine learning and computational topology to create tongue models of diverse healthy and diseased individuals to address various oral conditions.”