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Graphene tooth tattoo monitors oral health

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April 4, 2012

A graphene sensor effectively tattooed onto a tooth can be used to detect bacteria and so ...

A graphene sensor effectively tattooed onto a tooth can be used to detect bacteria and so wirelessly monitor oral health, research has shown

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A graphene sensor effectively tattooed onto a tooth can be used to detect bacteria and so wirelessly monitor oral health, research has shown. Graphene printed onto water-soluble silk can be "bio-transferred" onto organic materials such as tooth enamel. By incorporating antimicrobial peptides and a resonant coil, individual bacteria cells can be detected without need of an onboard power supply or wired connections.

And that's not all the technology shoehorned into the paper-thin sensor. A radio frequency identification (RFID) tag is built in, allowing the sensor to report back to additional monitoring equipment that perhaps cannot be shrunken to oral proportions.

With the sensor positioned on the tooth, the silk scaffold is dissolved in water, leaving the sensor and its components in place, fixed to the tooth by the same van der Waals forces that gecko-inspired biomimicking devices exploit. But tooth enamel is not the only material onto which the sensor can be van der Waal'd - with "soft tissues" and even drip bags among the possibilities.

Once the sensor is in place, the all important antimicrobial peptides can be attached. Dissolved in distilled water, the dual-purpose peptide GBP-OHP is dropped onto the graphene, to which it non-covalently bonds through pi-stacking. The peptides are additionally capable of binding to three major types of bacteria.

When bacteria binds with the peptides, a small electric current is induced in the graphene by tiny electric charges in the bacterial cell membranes. A remote antenna can be used to pick up the current in the sensor, by which the presence of a bacterial pathogen can be determined.

The antimicrobial proteins employed in this research were obtained from the tropical frogs Odorrana grahami, though other proteins - many of which occur naturally - could be used to detect other forms of bacteria. Indeed, this is an aim of the ongoing research conducted by Michael McAlpine's research team at Princeton University.

Source: Nature, Royal Society of Chemistry

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life.   All articles by James Holloway
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5 Comments

Seems easier to not eat much in the way of sweets, to brush and floss and get periodic cleanings and check ups.

Mr Stiffy
4th April, 2012 @ 02:44 am PDT

Oh yeah, this won't be used by the Illuminati at all...

Ernie Garrett
4th April, 2012 @ 07:41 am PDT

Amazing, just what I was waiting for. Although, I'd like to get a gadget that might clean teeth better than toothbrush (even electronic) with a floss. Otherwise teeth are decaying, no matter how many times a day you clean them.

Renārs Grebežs
6th April, 2012 @ 10:41 am PDT

It is always easier to fight a battle when your enemy is known.

In this case the enemy is gum disease and decay but I find it amazing that people don't seem to have a clue about what ACUALLY causes it.

You don't have to brush or floss and you can eat all the sugar you want...."wow, where did this guy come from?"

I'll nutshell it if I can.

Bacteria don't eat teeth or gums. COLONIZED bacteria elicit an immune response which can lead to bleeding and swollen gums...a.k.a. gingivitis and left unattended leads to bone loss and recession ... a.k.a. periodontal disease. If you bleed when you poke in between you teeth and gums you have colonized bacteria. Break them up and the immune system will leave them alone and won't damage the area...you break them up by poking in there. Uncolonized bacteria don't cause an immune response...check your skin.

On the decay end; acid producing and loving bacteria make acid for 1/2 hour when you feed them sugar....keep feeding them and the clock starts over. When your oral acidity normalizes the softened teeth take 2 1/2 hours to harden back up to normal hardness or better if the right minerals are present(Fluoride,etc). keep eating sugar before 3 hours is up and not only will you get lost mineral from the teeth, you will also favor the growth of the acid producing bacteria. If you don't eat sugar(breads turn into it in saliva) then you will NOT get decay...PERIOD. The above device is only for the weak.

josephshawa
11th April, 2012 @ 08:38 am PDT

Should not be used without a patient's consent.

Ryan Pettovello
11th August, 2013 @ 09:42 pm PDT
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