UCSD and PARC and their smart mouth guard and advanced flex sensors
The University of California San Diego (UCSD) and PARC (Palo Alto, Calif.) developed a smart mouth guard to monitor saliva to detect levels of hydration, fatigue and mental engagement in athletes in real time and continuously. Long-term, the technology’s flexible sensors may have medical applications in ultrasound transducers, cardiac arrhythmia monitors, hearing aids, catheters and test probes, according to Joseph Wang, director of the Center for Wearable Sensors at UCSD.
The center’s research focuses on non-invasive nanobioelectronics, which integrates nano- and biomaterials with electronic transducers. Researchers use copper-cladded polyimide as the primary base substrate. The mouth guard platform features anatomically-miniaturized instrumentation electronics such as a potentiostat, microcontroller, and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transceiver.
Unlike RFID-based biosensing systems, which require large proximal power sources, this platform enables real-time wireless transmission of the sensed information to standard smartphones, laptops and other consumer electronics for on-demand processing, diagnostics, or storage. The mouthguard biosensor detects uric acid in human saliva, covering the concentration ranges for both healthy people and hyperuricemia patients. It can be readily expanded to an array of sensors for different chemical substances for diverse health and fitness applications, according to the center’s website.
The center has developed 25 wearables, including a glucose-sensing tattoo that would also work well for monitoring cortisol and lactate as indicators of physical performance, Wang told Medical Design & Outsourcing. Long-term, they could expand into sensors for biomarkers and immunoassays.
For now, the partners’ next step is validation of the mouth guard, for which they have completed all the biocompatibility, toxicity and leaching studies, according to Wang.
“When you talk about noninvasive you talk about sweat, saliva and tears,” he said. “There’s a lot of interest in all these new biofluid non-invasives.”