Medical tests can get pretty invasive pretty quickly, but it’s normally a necessary evil in order to help patients get healthy again or make sure they’re even in good health to begin with. But what if there was some sort of medical sensor that didn’t require all the wires and needles, but was rather something you popped into your mouth and gave you minty fresh breath to boot? That’s what researchers from the University of Manitoba and the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba are rolling with – a medical sensor made out of chewing gum and carbon nanotubes.
This refreshingly chewy innovation is designed to be a way to monitor and record the vitals of patients. Using the classic Doublemint brand, patients chew a piece of the gum for 30 minutes. Afterwards, the gum is washed in ethanol and infused with carbon nanotubes, which are flexible conduits for electricity that make it possible for the gum to act as a medical sensor when it’s connected to a monitor.
So what all could these chewing gum medical sensors detect? Quite a bit, actually. Researchers noted the gum could detect the circulation of blood throughout the human body, small body movements such as a patient’s chest going up and down while breathing and even changes in humidity, which would let doctors observe water vapor released when a person is breathing.
The idea to use chewing gum for such a venture was a simple one – the elasticity and malleability of the gummy treat lets it be stretched and manipulated into various different shapes, offering quite the advantage over typical medical sensors made out of plastic or metal. The gum can freely move with the patient as well, able to withstand much more strain without losing its ability to function. And because chewing gum is so damn cheap, it’s a much more cost effective means of creating what would ordinarily be an expensive medical sensor. This is just one of the latest, and more fun, examples of the innovation coming out of the biotech industry.
So next time you find yourself enjoying a nice piece of gum and being scolded by a strict teacher or boss, just tell them that you’re very much chewing for your health. That’s right – chewing gum is pretty much a life or death scenario now!